Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Senate today unanimously accepted an amendment offered by Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) to grant the children of Filipino World War II veterans special immigrant status for purposes of family reunification.

The generation of WW II Filipino Veterans is predominantly in their 80s.  Prospective family-sponsored immigrants from the Philippines have the most substantial waiting times in the world before a visa is scheduled to become available to them.  Due to the high demand in the Philippines for immigrant visas to the U.S., the State Department is currently issuing visas for first preference family-sponsored immigrant visas whose priority date is September 1981.  The average wait for Filipinos to obtain a visa is 20 years.

Senator Akaka said, “I have listened to the stories of countless Filipino World War II veterans who have been separated from their families and who are patiently waiting in line.  Every veteran has a unique story to tell, but those Filipino World War II veterans who have not yet been reunited with their family members share a universal bond of heartache.

“Let us prove those wrong who say that we are waiting until enough veterans die before we right this injustice.  These veterans have been waiting for sixty years to have their benefits reinstated.  Unfortunately, our efforts to provide them with the benefits they were promised, the benefits they fought for, have been unsuccessful because opponents have cited the payment of such benefits as too costly.”

Following Senator Akaka's speech, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) stated, “The Senator from Hawaii deserves great credit for bringing this to our attention in the Senate.  This will help provide some very important family reunification.  It's entirely warranted and justified.  Thank you again for your continued advocacy on this issue.  We'll do everything we can to make sure this is carried to the conference as well.”   

Senate Amendment 4029 is cosponsored by Senators Dan Inouye, Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Patty Murray (D-WA).

The amendment is now a part of S. 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, and will be a part of the package that Senate Conferees take to the House in attempting to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  After Senate and House Conferees decide on what should be contained in the conference report, both bodies will vote, and send the bill to the President.

Representative Ed Case has introduced a similar bill, H.R. 901, in the House of Representatives.

Senator Akaka said he is pleased with the support he has received from his colleagues and various organizations, including the Japanese American Citizens's League, Asian American Justice Center, and American Coalition for Filipino Veterans.

“It is time that the United States fulfill its responsibility to these veterans.  The least we could do is help to unite these aging veterans with their families,” Senator Akaka added.

Senator Akaka is the Ranking Member on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.  To view his statement, please click here http://www.akaka.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Speeches.Home&month=5&year=2006&release_id=418 .