Immigrant Rights Advocate
During World War II, an estimated 250,000 Filipino soldiers were drafted into the United States armed forces and bravely fought alongside with American soldiers against Japanese occupation in the Philippines. The Filipino soldiers were given assurances (by then-United States President Franklin Roosevelt) that they would acquire United States citizenship and obtain the same veterans’ benefits as American soldiers. The United States broke its promise to these soldiers when it passed the Rescission Act of 1946, which deemed Filipino soldiers (who had fought for the United States in World War II) ineligible to receive veterans’ benefits.
Sixty years passed before the United States recognized the Filipino veterans’ courage, sacrifice, and loyalty to the United States. In 1990, Congress finally provided Filipino veterans the opportunity to obtain United States citizenship; however, this opportunity was not extended to their children.
As a result, the Filipino veterans after obtaining citizenship quickly filed immigrant petitions for their immediate family; but, because of the enormous backlog of immigration applications, the sons and daughters of Filipino war veterans have to wait for as long as eighteen years before a visa can become available to them. Some of these veterans are now in their 80s and 90s and they continue to wait to be reunited with their children to join them in the United States.
The efforts of the United States to recognize the veterans’ courageous sacrifices to this country came a little too late for Filipino veterans who have passed away before their sons and daughters could obtain a visa to reconnect with them in the United States. For these children whose Filipino veteran parents passed away before a visa became available, immigration law provides them with a few options to revive their now invalid petitions. (Under immigration law, if a petitioner dies, the petition he or she filed by law is automatically invalidated and cancelled.)
The only option for these sons and daughters is to seek reinstatement of the immigrant petition by proving that the automatic revocation would be inappropriate for humanitarian reasons.
In evaluating requests for reinstatement of a petition, the Attorney General has absolute discretion and looks at several factors, including but not limited to: the disruption of the family unit; hardship to United States citizens and lawful permanent residents; the age and health of the beneficiary; whether the beneficiary has had lengthy residence in the United States; whether the beneficiary has a foreign residence to which he or she can return; any undue delay by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or consular officers in processing the petition and the visa; and whether the beneficiary has strong family ties in the U.S. Seeking revalidation of the petition based on humanitarian grounds is extremely difficult and requires the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.
It is heartbreaking that after the United States took more than four decades to acknowledge that the Filipino World War II veterans had served in the U.S. armed forces, the immigration benefits extended to the veterans fell short and largely ignored their family members. The U.S. government should honor these veterans further and at the very least, exempt their sons and daughters from immigration numerical quotas that have delayed processing of their U.S. visas. •