By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. said Sunday that the Filipino communities and his office have long been pushing for the full recognition of the Filipino WW II veterans in the US Congress.
In an interview with the I am Pinoy Proud Ako Live Express, de Leon said that the Philippine lobbyists have mustered enough support in the Senate but more ground work is needed in the Lower House.
De Leon said that working for key policy changes in the US for the Filipinos is one of the more challenging responsibilities of his office.
The Philippines is the only country, of the 66 that fought side by side with the US during WW II, which has not been granted full rights of its soldiers. “Being full recognized as freedom fighters is what matters. It is really not about the money,” he said during the interview with Ethel Constantino and Joel Inocencio.
De Leon will bid farewell to his post in the East Coast in October this year, after a six year stint. The I Am Pinoy Proud Ako Live Express created the last Sunday show as a tribute to the Consul General whose jurisdiction covers Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, aside from New York.
Meanwhile, in a separate event, Deputy Consul General Kira D. Azucena hailed the recent implementation of the Parole Visa Program as an important milestone triumph in the nationwide Filipino-American community’s ongoing campaign in lobbying the U.S. government to grant Filipino veterans the honor and recognition due them. She added that this newly enacted policy is timely as 2016 marks the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the United States.
Danganan expressed confidence that the Parole Visa Program would reunite many veterans with their families in the Philippines, and encouraged the community to continue supporting nationwide efforts to lobby the U.S. government on Filipino veteran matters.
In a town hall forum on Parole Visas for Filipino WW II veterans at the Philippine Consulate on August 27, USCIS representative Shyconia Burden explained to attending community members the parole program policy based on the executive order signed by Pres. Obama on June 8, 2016.
Burden said that the USCIS has started to allow certain Filipino WW II veteran family members who are beneficiaries of approved family-based immigrant visa petitions an opportunity to receive a discretionary grant of parole on an individual case basis, so that they may come to the United States as they wait for their immigrant visa to become available.
This parole policy was first announced in the White House report “Modernizing and Streamlining our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century” issued in July 2015. There are about 6,000 Filipino-American World War II veterans who are living in the United States today. (With a press release from the Philippine Consulate General of New York)