CHICAGO – In the waning days of World War II, American military officers drew a line on the sands, asking Filipino veterans to step on a line if they wanted to become American citizens.
Only about 4,000 of the 200,000 survivors chose to become U.S. citizens. The rest did not become U.S. citizens because they did know about the offer or they turned down the offer or their applications were not processed because the U.S. consul was recalled to the U.S. and did not return.
Later, the Rescission Act of 1946 (38 U.S.C. § 107) was passed, and the law retroactively annulled benefits that included payment to Filipino troops for their military service under the auspices of the United States. At that time, the Philippines was a U.S. territory, and the Filipinos were U.S. nationals.
The law deemed that their sacrifices during the war were “not to have been active military, naval, or air service for the purposes of any law of the United States conferring rights, privileges, or benefits upon any person by reason of the service of such person or the service of any other person in the Armed Forces.”
Introduced by Rep. Walter Jones, Jr. (R-NC-3) last month as H.R. (House of Representatives) 887, the bill would allow the next-of-kin of these deceased veterans to decide if he wants his relative to become a U.S. citizen after his death. This would “amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to extend honorary citizenship to otherwise qualified noncitizens who enlisted in the Philippines and died while serving on active duty with the United States Armed Forces during certain periods of hostilities, and for other purposes.”
The bill states a request for the grant of posthumous citizenship to a person described in subsection (b) or non-U.S. citizens may be filed on behalf of that person (A) upon locating the next-of-kin (and if so requested by the next-of-kin) by the Secretary of Defense or the secretary’s designee with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security immediately upon the death of that person;
Or (B) may be filed by the next-of-kin or (2) if the Director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services approves a request for posthumous citizenship filed by the next-of-kin in accordance with paragraph (1)(B) (non-US citizen) if (A) the request is filed not later than two years after (i) November 24, 2003;
Or (ii) the date of the person’s death, whichever date is later (B) with the request to be accompanied by a duly authenticated certificate from the executive department under which the person served and which states that the person satisfied the requirements of paragraphs (1) and (2) of subsection (b); and (C) the Director finds that the person satisfied the requirement of subsection (b)(3) and (d) Documentation of posthumous citizenship.
If the Director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services approves the request referred to in subsection (c), the director would send to the next-of-kin of the person who is granted citizenship, a suitable document which states that the United States considers the person to have been a citizen of the United States at the time of the person’s death.
The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.
When former President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, eligible Filipino veterans, who are U.S. citizens, were due to receive a one-time payment of $15,000. The non-U.S. citizens were due to receive $9,000.
In 2013, 18,000 claims were approved. The White House did not, however, disclose how many of these 18,000 claims were filed by U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens. Also, there were 460 appeals that were granted 10.16% grant rate based on total appeals received.
The slow pace of the approval of claims was due to a catastrophic 1973 fire at the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The fire destroyed 16-18 records of million military service by veterans of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.
Most of the records of the Filipino veterans at NPRC could not be located. The U.S. Veterans Administration does not recognize the U.S. Army and Philippine Army records, and this prompted lawmakers to file a bill to expand the sources of eligibility.
It is recalled that in 1941, more than 260,000 Filipino soldiers responded to President Roosevelt’s call-to-arms and fought under the American flag during World War II. Many made the ultimate sacrifice as soldiers of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East and as recognized guerilla fighters during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
Aside from Filipino veterans, the bill would also confer posthumous U.S. citizenship on deceased veterans on active duty in armed forces during World War I, the Korean war, the Vietnam war and in other periods of military hostilities.