Citizen. Ship.


FROM the time Asiatic Squadron commanded by US Commodore George Dewey landed in Manila in what nationalist historians considered a mock battle at the bay, to the day that US warships left the Philippines after America’s bases closed in 1992, the US military left behind tens of hundreds of thousands of children born to Filipino mothers.

While some of these children have photos of their fathers, most only have their mother’s memories of the affair or relationship that gave birth to a potential US citizenship claim: they are aware they have US citizen fathers, but they are not US citizens.

The Fourteenth Amendment of the US constitution declares that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

After the Treaty of Paris was signed on Dec. 10, 1898, the Philippines became a colony of the United States, a territory subject to US jurisdiction when the treaty came into effect on April 11, 1899.

Filipinos became US nationals not subject to any immigration restriction. As US nationals, they did not need to apply for and have visas to enter the US. Since the Philippines was then a US territory, Filipinos were in the US, not in the US mainland, but in the United States, nevertheless. In fact, while other Asians were restricted from migration to the US, the Immigration Act of 1917 did not impose that restriction on Filipinos.

The initial quota of 50 Filipino immigrants to the US started under the Tydings-McDuffie Act prior to the “grant of independence.” The number was subsequently doubled on and after July 4, 1946.

Currently, the US sets an annual limit of 226,000 for family-sponsored immigration and 140,000 for employment-based immigrants. The worldwide level for annual employment-based preference immigrants is at least 140,000. The per-country limit for preference immigrants is set at 7 percent of the total annual family-sponsored and employment-based preference limits, i.e., 25,620.

Children born in the US and territories are considered natural-born US citizens even if their parents are undocumented or illegal aliens. On the other hand, children born outside the US to parents (one of whom is a US citizen) acquire US citizenship at birth.

But why are children born to US citizen fathers (from the Dewey warships to the US fleet in 1992) not considered US citizens?

In the case of children after the Treaty of Paris, they did not acquire American citizenship at birth because the Philippine Islands were never incorporated into the United States. Therefore, the US constitution provision on citizenship did not apply.

To pursue a claim to US citizenship, not only should the US citizen fathers meet the requirements above.

Children born in the Philippines to US citizen fathers (in the military or otherwise) may apply for citizenship, but the US citizen father must:

1)provide evidence of being a US citizen at the time of the child’s birth;

2)have been physically present in the US for a period of five years if the child was born on or after Nov. 14, 1986 and 10 years if the child was born before that date.

3)have agreed in writing (prior to death, if deceased) to provide financial support till the child turns 18. In addition,

4)The child must have been legitimated before turning 18 years of age.

The leading Republican presidential candidate – billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump – has cast doubts on the eligibility of his closest rival Senator Ted Cruz by claiming that since Senator Cruz was born in Canada, Cruz’s being a natural-born American is in question.

The Apprentice host refers to Article II Section1, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution which provides that “(N)o Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”

Trump is raising the issue that since Cruz was born in Canada (outside the US) Cruz’s being a “natural born citizen” must be cleared by a federal court. Legal luminaries point out the fact that a lower federal court cannot simply declare one a US citizen or not. Such an issue must have been the subject of a lower court case but subsequently elevated to and decided by the US Supreme Court.

The Congressional Research Service opines that “the weight of scholarly legal and historical opinion appears to support the notion that ‘natural born Citizen’ means one who is entitled under the Constitution or laws of the United States to US citizenship ‘at birth’ or ‘by birth,’ including any child born ‘in’ the United States, the children of United States citizens born abroad, and those born abroad of one citizen parents who has met US residency requirements,” In sum, Cruz is a citizen; Cruz is not naturalized; therefore, Cruz is a natural-born citizen, and in any case his mother is a citizen.”

Children of those in the US army or navy – were born to Filipino mothers, unlike Cruz whose mother was a US citizen. So, even if he was born in Canada, Cruz acquired the citizenship of his American citizen mother.

To pursue a claim to US citizenship, not only must the US citizen father meet the requirements: the child must have complied with the other provisions as well – becoming legitimized before turning 18. If the child’s parents were married (and a verifiable marriage certificate is obtainable form the National Statistics Office) then he or she is a legitimate child.

Children born out of wedlock may establish legitimation if:

a)The child is legitimated under the law of the person’s residence or domicile

b)The father acknowledges paternity of the person in writing under oath, or

c)The paternity of the person is established by adjudication of a competent court.

If the legitimation requirement is not met, the child (now a son or daughter) would not be able to obtain the citizenship of the father.

The viable option – especially if the US citizen father meets the requirements for the parent – must be to file a family-sponsored petition. The son or daughter (one who is 21 years old and above) may then apply for U.S. citizenship after meeting certain periods of lawful permanent residency.

Otherwise, for the Amerasians – estimated at about 250,000 – their claim to being American citizens vanished with the sailing of the ships.


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