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Philippine News: Veterans applaud US Senate vote on family bill

June 6, 2007 4:15pm
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The approval of the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act was greeted with glee by Filipino American veterans, despite uncertainty over its final outcome.

Presented on Wednesday, May 23 by Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) as S. Amendment 1186 to the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2007, it was overwhelmingly approved with a Senate floor vote of 87 to nine the next day, May 24.

The amendment would allow sons and daughters [and their spouses] and grandchildren under age 21, of Filipino World War II veterans who were naturalized under the Immigration Act of 1990 to be reunited with them without having to wait in line and be subjected to worldwide or numerical limitations on immigrant visas.

The controversial Senate bill proposes, among other objectives, to change family ties as basis of the reformed immigration system in favor of an economy-based system that is more favored to succeed in passing an immigration bill in the 110th Congress.

The shift would also trim down the category for parents to a much lower number, eliminate the adult [over 21] children and sibling categories, and subject all retained family ties to a 10-point appraisal based on education, skills, employment record, and age.

“We are very happy about the good news," Joe Gonzalez, 82, told Philippine News from his home in Texas. Gonzales petitioned for his seven children 12 years ago, and has paid the $90 fee for each of them. “My children are all waiting, and have started to contact me when they could come."

A former president of a FilAm veterans association in Hawaii when he lived there for 11 years, Gonzales is one of the veterans who came to lobby for the Akaka bill to be included in the Senate version of the immigration bill.

Art Caleda, 83, also received the news with excitement. “I was so excited when I saw Senator Akaka on TV presenting the amendment," he told PN from his home in Hawaii.

He and his wife Luz expect their three children, whom he petitioned 15 years, and their two grandchildren under 21 years old, to finally join them “after a very long wait."

Caleda, who is president of the 1,500-member WWII FilAm Veterans and Ladies Auxiliary of Hawaii, was with the Intelligence Service Company, 11th Infantry Regiment, of the U.S. Armed Forces of the Philippines for the last two years that led to the capture of Japan’s General Yamashita.

Caleda said that he and a delegation of about 30 members of his organization, met with Akaka’s district staff director, Michael Kitamura in early May to urge the senator to introduce his bill as an amendment to the senate immigration bill.

Joaquin Tejada, 80, a D.C.-based veteran member of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans who lobbies in Congress as frequently as his bad legs could stand the walking, also hopes his two daughters could finally be reunited with him.

Celestino Almeda, 90, who lives in Virginia and still manages to take the Metro to Congress by himself despite one un-seeing eye, petitioned for his only son, Reynaldo, two years ago.

“I am waiting for him to join me," he said, adding that he paid the current fee of $120 for his application.

These veterans are among the remaining 7,000 Filipino veterans living in the U.S. after many of their naturalized compatriots had either passed on or chosen to go back to the Philippines to be with their families. - Philippine News