Friday, December 1, 2006

Sen. Akaka authors legislation to provide special immigrant status to sons and daughters of Filipino WW II veterans

Vows priority for S. 4070 in next Congress

U.S.Senator Daniel Akaka, principal author of the legislation to amend the Senate immigration bill to provide special immigrant status to sons and daughters of Filipino WW II veterans, greets Commander Amador Montero of the Seattle-based Filipino War Veterans of Washington (FWVW) and other Filipino WW II veterans. He was main spreaker with U.S. Rep. Bob Filner at the planning conference hosted by the Philippine Embassy and the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) in Washington D.C. Looking on are Ambassador Will Gaa, FWVW Historian Greg Garcia, and IDIC Executive Director and veterans' advocate Sluggo Rigor.

WWII Maj. Albert Bacani (ret.), 96, of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, greets Sen. Daniel Akaka, incoming chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee as Ms. Loida Nicolas-Lewis looks on.

Veterans at the planning conference pose with U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, author of S. 4070 (seated center). ACFV veterans led by Pat Ganio, 86, Franco Arcebal, 83, Amador Montero, 89, are shown with with NaFFAA leaders Ernie Ramos, National Chair Alma Kern, Armando Heredia and Philippine Ambassador Willy Gaa. (E. Lachica photo)

WWII vets: Regino Nacua (SF), Joaquin Tejada (DC) and Simplicio Yoma (SF) and Loida Nicolas-Lewis prepare to meet with Sen. Charles Schumer's aide in his Hart Senate office to discuss the Family Reunification and Equity bills.

ACFV Photos from the Dec. 6, 2006 Embassy-NaFFAA Planning Conference


New books for Dolores Elementary School in Abra

School children of the Dolores Elementary School happily hold up the books that were donated to by Minnesota couple Joy and Don Martodam through the assistance of Seattle-based educator Dolly Castillo and Dolores, Abra civic leaders Jay and Susan Timbreza. In the back are school Principal Pedrito Testado and a classsroom teacher who helped distribute the books.


Veterans Agonize Over Long Wait

Veterans’ Survey Completes 1st Leg

The state-funded survey of Filipino World War II veterans who are appealing for their families to rejoin them in the U.S. completes this month the first segment of data-gathering with a total of fifty-three (53) aging respondents submitting information and data to a Survey Task Force based in South Seattle. Initially designed to count the number of Filipino WW II veterans who have filed immigration petitions for their families, the survey—begun in August---also intends to determine the veterans’ living conditions, service credentials, the number of petitioned kin and their professions, if any, and their provincial or regional origins. The 53 veterans have pending petitions for 323 dependents that are living in the Philippines.

Respondents sought out by the survey are specifically Filipino veterans and recognized guerillas who were awarded U.S. citizenship through the 1990 Immigration Reform Act signed into law by then President George H. Bush. Arriving in the U.S. in the mid 1990s, the veterans were already in their 70s, mostly unemployable, and without their spouses or children. It is believed that there were about 14,000 veterans who availed of the citizenship offer and came to live in the U.S. Majority of them landed in Hawaii and California. In Washington State, about 250 are reported to have arrived as early as 1992. Many have had to file formal petitions so that their spouses could rejoin them. For spouses, it took an average of 2 to 5 years’ wait. But petitions for married children, due to a quota system imposed on visas issued for countries like the Philippines, waiting time is from 15 to 18 years.

Photo: Seattle, San Francisco, and Houston veterans, their spouses, and advocates visited the National WWII Memorial in Washington DC on December 8, 2006, the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. The Filipino War Veterans of Washington (FWVW) were led by Commander Amador M. Montero and wife Proserpina; FWVW Historian Greg Garcia and wife Rosita; IDIC Executive Director Sluggo Rigor and wife Marivic; while Major (ret.) Urbano Quijance and Ms. Fanny Sumaoang represented the Seattle-based Bataan-Corregidor Surviviors Association (BCSA).The San Francisco veterans were Regino Nacua and Simplicio Yoma. Joe Gonzales represented the Houston ACFV chapter. Philippine Embassy VA head, Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, and ACFV Executive Director Eric Lachica escorted the delegation.

Of the total 53 Filipino veterans surveyed, all have petitioned their adult children and grandchildren. On average, they have been waiting for more than ten years. Some have been waiting for as long as 14 years.

Among the significant findings of the survey are that the veterans’ dependents are professionally able and ready to transition into the U.S. Forty-one percent of the respondents in Washington State live on supplemental income. All are in their mid or late 80s.

Unprecedented in scope, the survey of Filipino WW II veterans was managed and administered by the International Drop-In Center (IDIC) in close collaboration with the Filipino War Veterans of Washington (FWVW), a 14-year old organization of veterans who had come to live in the State in the wake of the 1990 Immigration Act. Twenty-two community organizations all over the state were asked to assist as Survey Information Points (SIPs) with student-volunteers from the University of Washington helping in the gathering and compiling of survey data. An independent public affairs outfit, Lachman & Laing Associates, was appointed as counsel to the survey.

The project is supported by State Governor Christine Gregoire, State Senator Margarita Prentice, Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA) Executive Director Ellen Abellera, Department of Veterans Affairs Director John Lee, Washington D.C.-based American Coalition of Filipino Veterans (ACFV), and Filipino veterans’ organizations and socio-civic groups in the local community.

“The survey will be the basis for studying possible community-based programs that will be in place when the U.S. Congress finally passes the Family Reunification Bill in the 110th Congress as committed by Senators Daniel Akaka, Daniel Inouye, Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Rep. Bob Filner, and scores of other leading supporters in Washington D.C.,” FWVW Commander Amador Montero shared.

The 89-year old veteran leader referred to the plan drawn up two years ago by his group and veterans’ advocates in the state asking Olympia to extend support to an integrated Filipino WW II Veterans Family Resettlement Program that will include workable transport of families from the Philippines, acculturation courses, transitional housing, schooling and job search. The program would be the first of its kind in the U.S. and would be an ideal format for similar undertakings in other states, Montero added.

From an original 200 members of the Seattle-based Filipino War Veterans of Washington (FWVW) in 1994, membership has dwindled to less than one-half. Thirty-one veterans residing in Washington State have filed petitions for their adult children and grand children. Those who have not yet filed have not done so because of the increased cost of filing fees. Commander Montero had expressed concern over expensive fees during courtesy calls made to the offices of Hawaii Senators Akaka, Inouye, Washington State Senators Cantwell and Murray in Washington D.C. earlier this month.

In a letter to the Bulletin, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell wrote in part: “Please be assured that as the 110th Congress begins in January 2007, I will work with my colleagues on behalf of Filipino World War II veterans to ensure that their families may join them in the United States.” She is a co-sponsor of the legislation introduced on November 16th by Sen. Akaka, S. 4070, that would expedite the family-sponsored immigrant visa for adult children of Filipino WW II veterans who wish to be reunited with their parents.

“Because there is overwhelming support in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on the passage of a justifiable, do-able and affordable legislation like Family Reunification, it is widely anticipated that S. 4070 will be processed faster on committee levels and voted on the floor earlier than other bills regarding Filipino war veterans,” veteran Greg Garcia of the FWVW disclosed. This optimism was also shared by officials of the Arlington-based ACFV whose lobbying experience in Washington D.C. spans more than 12 years.

“These positive developments are reasons why we in Washington State are excited and ready to move on to the next level to extend much-needed, time-sensitive help to our gallant WW II Filipino soldiers. Any issue about family togetherness is critical and we are blessed to have the support and understanding of our Governor and the State Legislature,” CAPAA Executive Director Ellen Abellera added. It was the CAPAA chief who had flown to Washington D.C. in May to personally push for the Family Reunification Bill. That provision was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate for inclusion in the controversial Immigration Reform Act. Early last year, Ms. Abellera had also hand-carried a personal note from Governor Gregoire to President Gloria M. Arroyo to appraise the Philippine President about the Veterans Family Reunification initiatives being undertaken in Washington State.

Together with veterans’ advocates from all over the U.S. and staff members of leading U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators, Ms. Abellera is reported to be actively assisting in the early re-introduction and passage in the next Congress of Sen. Akaka’s “stand-alone bill,” S. 4070.


Christmas Cheer

The singing, jolly Donut Boys livened up the Third Annual Christmas Choral Concert held at the Filipino Community Center in South Seattle on December 4th. The group, directed and accompanied on the electric guitar by Tacoma-based musician Eddie Artugue, is noted for their cheerful and bouncy tunes. They are shown here rendering one of their fun numbers in their smart blue jackets.

Choral singers composed of youngsters from various Church groups rendered lilting Christmas carols at the Third Annual Christmas Choral Concert December 4th at the Filipino Community Center in South Seattle. The group was led by community advocate John Araucto who sang with the group. Also conducting was Realtor Vallie Pavino.