Today marks the beginning of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Shouldn’t Filipino Amerasians, children of US fathers military personnel, also be able to celebrate? Let’s make this happen. We strive toward US recognition of Filipino Amerasians to help address the grave injustices Amerasians have faced throughout Philippine-American history and to grant the Amerasian community the dignity that they have long sought.
Many countries in Asia have been visited by the United States military, but the Philippines endured the longest American military presence in Asia – nearly a century, from American colonization of the archipelago in 1898 to the post-Cold War closure of American military installations in the Philippines in 1992. American forces returned in 2000, after the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States was ratified by the Philippine Senate, allowing American forces to reenter the country to conduct joint exercises with the Philippine military. Since then, the US military has maintained a temporary but regular presence with expanded access in the Philippines.
In large part due to Amerasians’ political invisibility in the Philippines and the rest of Asia, it is unclear precisely how many mixed-race children were abandoned by their American fathers. While the Pearl S. Buck Foundation estimated that there were 50,000 Amerasian offspring produced and abandoned in Philippines, recent estimates are as high as 250,000.
Current immigration law pertaining to Amerasians egregiously excludes vast numbers of Amerasians stranded in Asia, and potential changes to immigration policy – such as Hatch7 – threaten to further undermine American immigration policy’s fundamental goal of family reunification. These proposed changes threaten the welfare of all Amerasians – including those already in the United States as well as those still stranded in Asia.
In response, Bill HR1520 Uniting Families Act of 2017 was introduced to congress on March 13, 2017. “This bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to establish a non-immigrant W-visa category for an alien who: (1) is 18 or older and is the genetic son or daughter of a U.S. citizen who served in the Armed Forces on active duty abroad, or (2) is the spouse or child of such alien and is accompanying, or following to join, such alien.
A visa shall not be issued until a petition has been filed in the United States by the applicant’s citizen parent and approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Such petition shall include:
DNA evidence establishing that the alien is the petitioner’s genetic child,a written agreement that the parent will provide financial support until the alien’s status is adjusted to lawful permanent resident status, and information establishing that the petitioner is a U.S. citizen who served in the Armed Forces on active duty abroad.
The bill provides that: (1) the period of authorized admission for a W-visa alien is five years, which may be extended for one additional two-year period; and (2) the total number of principal W-visa aliens who may be admitted during any fiscal is 5,000.
The bill prescribes the criteria that a W-visa alien must meet in order to adjust to lawful permanent resident status, including an understanding of the English language and U.S. history. (Such language and history requirements for naturalization purposes shall not apply to a person who has satisfied them in adjusting from W-visa status to lawful permanent resident status.)
We respectfully ask the good people and our representatives of the United States to safeguard the Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1988 (PL 100-200), including the Family Reunification Act, by asking Congress (1) to remove Hatch7 from the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill, should it move forward to the House floor, or (2) to avoid passing any similar legislation, should Congress decide on an alternative route to immigration reform; (3) to recognize Filipino Amerasians stranded abroad by asking Congress to add the Philippines to the list of countries enumerated in the Amerasian Act of 1982.
Equally, we ask the good people and our representatives of the United States to recognize not only Amerasians but overseas children of US military personnel veterans gain recognition and a clearer path to reunite with their US military veteran fathers, and to support the Bill HR1520 Uniting Families Act of 2017.
This important Bill was crafted by John Thomas Haines, US Navy Veteran and proud father of adult Filipino Amerasian daughter whom he loves and supports. Haines is also a member of the FACC Advisory Board.
To learn more about Bill HR 1520, please go to: www. congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/ house-bill/1520