REUNIFICATION OF FAMILIES OF PINOY WW 2 VETS IN U.S. SOUGHT

WASHINGTON, December 4, 2003  (STAR) By Jose Katigbak — A US congressman has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to reunite families of Filipino World War II veterans who have become American citizens, but have been unable to bring their adult children to live with them in the United States.

Democratic Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii said Congress in 1990 approved a waiver from certain naturalization requirements for these veterans so they could become US citizens.

"It was one way our nation recognized the courage and commitment of the Filipino troops who fought alongside our armed forces in the Philippines during World War II," he said.

"But a huge gap still remains, for we did not also permit naturalization in 1990 to the children of these same veterans," he said.

He said many Filipino-American veterans who have filed immigration petitions for their adult children 10 years ago are still waiting for visas to be issued to them.

"These veterans are entering the sunset years of their lives. We have done what we can to give veterans adequate benefits for their commendable service. Now, we must recognize and provide for the reunification of these families who deserve our support," he said.

Case introduced his bill in the House on Nov. 21 shortly before both chambers of Congress approved health care benefits for 8,000 Filipino veterans living in the United States.

Case has more Filipino-American constituents — about 140,000 — in his district, than any other congressional district in the country.

On Oct. 16 he filed a bill in the House seeking to allow non-immigrants applying for temporary visas to visit US relatives coping with serious family emergencies such as terminal illnesses and the death of loved ones.

"Nothing can be more difficult and heart-wrenching for an immigrant American family with close ties to their homeland than to have a relative from overseas denied a non-immigrant visa that would allow families to be reunited in times of emergencies," he said.

Case cited real-life examples from his own district, one involving an American woman diagnosed with a terminal illness who had been separated from her daughter for 15 years and wanted to see her for one last time.

But the daughter, a Philippine citizen with a husband and children in the Philippines, was denied a temporary non-immigrant visa to say a final farewell and to attend her mother’s funeral.

In another situation, he said a terminally ill US citizen had not seen any of her siblings for more than 20 years and wanted to see just one of them.

Her sister, who is married with young children, saw her visa application denied even though she provided documentation that she had every reason to return to the Philippines.

"The reason for the rejection of these applicants was in no way related to any assessment of their security risk," Case said.

"The reason lies instead in the application of the ‘presumption clause’ in current immigration law. In practice, applicants for non-immigrant visas are presumed to be at risk of defaulting on their visas and remaining in our country illegally unless they can affirmatively prove that they will return to their countries," he said.

Case’s bill seeks to require the issuance of a temporary visa unless there is reasonable proof to conclude the visa holder is a likely default risk.

He said his bill — the Compassionate Visitor Visa Act — "applies only in the narrow case of an applicant whose close family member has a serious illness or has died or has some other similar family emergency" which can be proven to the satisfaction of immigration officials.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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