IT has been more than 12 Christmases when Filipino veterans were allowed to apply for naturalization as US citizens for having served with the US Armed Forces during World War II – specifically for the period September 1, 1939 to December 31, 1946.
The Christmas present came by way of Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act signed as an executive order on July 3, 2002.
But only the veterans were granted citizenship. To have their spouses and children with them, the aging heroes must sponsor them by filing petitions. The trouble is, with only 25,620 visa per country allocation, the children of these aging and dying warriors – now adults and mostly married – must wait for 15 to 20 years.
The July 15 announcement by President Obama seeks to unify Filipino veterans and their families. Like most proposals with good intentions, the devil lurks in the details.
The sad fact – and the truth is – Obama’s executive actions – particularly that preventing the deportation of children brought to the U.S. by their parents (Deferred Action for Children Arrivals – DACA) and later the parents as well (Deferred Action for Parental Accountability – DAPA) have been challenged in court and the US Congress.
The implementation of DAPA and the extended DACA guidelines have been discontinued. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott filed a suit, and since then had been supported by 25 other states. The case is now before the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Wednesday the 13th of January 2015, the House of Representatives voted 236 to 191 to block funding for President Obama’s immigration orders seeking to defer deportation of illegal immigrants.The second salvo, also approved in a 237 to 190 vote, seeks to de-fund the program deferring the deportations of the millions of illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Now, this counterstrike by the Obama administration brings the attention back to the White House albeit on the backs of Filipino Veterans, children who aged-out while waiting for their visas to be current and the millions more in the U.S. as undocumented.
What specific action Obama is proposing? Parole for certain family members of Filipino veterans. Parole is a restrictive option under current US immigration laws that “allow individuals to come to the United States on a case-by-case basis for a temporary period of time based upon urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.”
The White House Report cited parole program precedents: the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program and most recently, the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program.
President Obama’s recommendation is for the DHS “to create a parole program to allow certain family members of Filipino-American veterans to request parole to come to the United States to provide support and care to their Filipino veteran family members who are U.S. citizens or LPRs. USCIS and State will work together to provide clear guidance to the public on the application process, and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.”
But Immigration Services warns that humanitarian parole is used only “sparingly to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible into the United States for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency.”
The “parolees must depart the United States before the expiration of their parole” since parole does not grant any immigration benefits. Further, parole cannot be used to “avoid normal visa-issuing procedures or to bypass immigration procedures.”
Unlike the Philippine political landscape where Congress is comprised of legislators beholden to the current administration, Obama is aware that he faces stiff resistance from both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
With Donald Trump besting the latest Bush son to seek presidency, the White House seeks to solicit the support of the relatives and supporters of the immigrant communities, especially the Latino vote, which is considered the biggest swing vote and king-maker of U.S. politics.
It is not surprising then that the report issued by the White House comes with a reminder:
“President Obama is committed to acting within his legal authority to fix our immigration system, but only Congress can finish the job with comprehensive, commonsense immigration reform.”
For the Filipino veterans losing members to infirmity and age, the report is a red-ribboned balloon, designed to be seen, to float in a majestic, colorful flight, until it either pops or lose hot air, vanishing from public view and into the tombs of the unknown soldiers – a “Consuelo de Lolo.”
Parole, Pasko and Politics do make strange bedfellows.