Hollywood, CA — They may have not met their grandfathers and great grandfathers in person, but for these young Fil-Ams, the Filipino veterans’ fight for full recognition is personal.
To this day, these aged war heroes have not been given full military benefits — such as lifetime monthly pensions — for their services during World War II.
“My great-grandpa actually participated in the Bataan death march so I know some relatives also participated to so I’m fighting for their rights even if I didn’t get to meet them and they’re not around anymore,” said Rhea Raya.
“My grandpa was a World War II veteran so I’m fighting for his rights … I’m fighting for my grandma’s rights because she didn’t get any of the pensions or any of the benefits,” said Aubrey Brown.
Now on its 19th year, hundreds marked Veterans Day with the annual Justice for Filipino American Veterans march through the streets of Hollywood.
This year, they’re acting with urgency hoping to get Congress to act on the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act which is set to expire in 2021.
After it was introduced last May, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs in June.
“25 sponsors total so we’re looking forward to having more support from the House of Representatives and then also to have it introduced at the Senate level,” said Eddy Gana Jr. from Justice For Filipino American Veterans.
While advocates fight for the advancement of the fairness act, they’re also fighting to keep the Obama era advance parole program alive.
President Donald Trump’s administration announced the termination of the Veterans Parole program last August as the administration finds ways to limit legal immigration. That program expedites the visa processing of family members of Filipino veterans.
“It’s important now then ever for the community to advocate against this termination. That’s why it’s important to march the streets, important to contact the United States citizenship and immigration services and to do all that we can to keep it going.”
While the termination was announced during the summer, the White House has not yet been clear if and when the Filipino World War Two Veterans Parole program would end, giving these advocates a fighting chance to keep this one benefit alive — while they fight for full equity.