FilVets find renewed hope in Family Reunification Bill

SAN FRANCISCO – More than two decades have passed since Filipino World War II veteran Regalado Baldonado has been reunited with all of his eight children. He said, “The fact that we can be together is the best thing that can happen to me.”

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet.

It took Baldonado about 20 years to bring his four children to the United States. The remaining four are still waiting for visas in the Philippines. His daughter, Charmaine, said her father needs his family around him, especially that he’s old and sickly. “We always pray that one day, we will all be together again as a family,” she said.

These veterans and their children have to deal with the massive backlog in America’s broken immigration system. But advocates said time is crucial. If these veterans die while waiting, their petition dies with them as well.

They are finding renewed hope that this bill will soon pass. Hawaii has just passed a senate resolution urging the federal government to support the passage of the Family Reunification Bill.

Ago Pedalizo, coordinator for the Justice for Filipino American Veterans or JFAV stated, “”It’s a long way to go. But the pattern has been clear, year after year. Usually the sponsors are coming from the Democrats — 90% to 95%. But right now, both Houses are controlled by the Republicans. So the burden is upon them to really push for this bill. If they’re really sincere in helping out the vets who served this country, Republicans should make the move.”

The veterans and their advocates now have until the end of the congressional session in 2017, to get enough support for the bill. Advocates are hoping that once the Family Reunification Bill passes, it will also convince lawmakers to finally grant the veterans their much-awaited lifetime monthly pensions.

“If we allow them to bring their families and kids here because of their service, it’s going to follow in the future that we will use the same documentation, the same basis, for them to have their complete recognition, complete benefits,” pointed out Pedalizo.

If the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Bill fails to pass as a stand-alone bill, the veterans and their advocates are hoping it will be included as part of the comprehensive immigration bill that seeks to fully address the massive backlog in petitions. Either way, they just want to be finally reunited with their loved-ones — and they want it to happen soon.

You may contact Henni Espinosa at henni_espinosa@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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