The longest and hardest fight for Filipino veterans who served in the U.S. military during World War II is finally over--after 45 years. A promise of U.S. citizenship is now becoming a reality for the thousands of surviving Filipinos who fought with Americans in the Pacific. It is long overdue recognition of veterans, unjustly disowned and dishonored.
A provision in the Immigration Act of 1990, which was signed Thursday by President Bush, allows the naturalization of the surviving Filipino veterans, whose average age is now 75. Their long and sad saga began in mid-1941 when Gen. Douglas MacArthur was ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to call up the Philippine Army into service for the United States. The Philippines was then a commonwealth of the United States. By 1945, the United States counted 472,000 Filipino soldiers and guerrillas under its command.
Congress passed a bill in 1942 to authorize naturalization for all aliens who served in the U.S. armed forces. But the Japanese occupation of the Philippines interfered. Then the naturalization proceedings were disrupted by what U.S. authorities described as Philippine government concerns over the emigration of young men. The law expired in 1946. There's been a legal battle ever since to restore citizenship rights. Securing equitable veteran benefits, which were cut to half the usual amount in 1946, will be the next battle.