27/06/2016: TALAKAYAN SA KONSULADO : US CIS IMPLEMENTS THE FILIPINO WWII VETERAN PAROLE PROGRAM
On June 6, 2016 the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco held a Talakayan sa Konsulado at the Consular Section Public Hall, to discuss the implementation of the Filipino WWII Veteran Parole Program (FWVP), which was launched on June 8, 2016. This new program aims to benefit Filipino WWII veterans and their families. There are an estimated 2,000 to 6,000 Filipino American World War II veterans still alive that could potentially benefit from the program.
According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (US CIS), this parole policy was first announced in the White House report on “Modernizing and Streamlining our Immigration System for the 21st Century” in July 2015. It recommended the use of the “parole” power to reunite family members of Filipino World War II veterans. After almost a year of waiting, the USCIS finally launched the program last June 8. Once applications are approved, children and/or widows of Filipino veterans will be allowed to travel to the United States on parole.
Resource persons who participated in the Talakayan included John Kramar, Director of the US CIS San Francisco District Office, and other US CIS officials. Atty. Lou Tancinco and Ms. Ma. Luisa Antonio, Board President and Executive Director of the Veterans Equity Center also participated as panelists. Other veterans affairs’ community advocates came such as Filipino Advocates for Justice, Immigration Legal Services of Catholic Charities, Integrated Bar of the Philippines Northern California, Veterans Memorial War Commission, and Philippine American Press Club.
In his opening remarks, Consul General Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. stated “ this new program is significant not only in terms of honoring Filipino veterans and their great contributions during World War II, but also recognizing their current plight, particularly their longstanding aspirations to be reunited with their respective families while their immigration visa petitions are being processed” .
VEC Executive Director Ma. Luisa Antonio described the current situation of veterans and their families in San Francisco, and provided a chronological account of various campaigns made by the community to further recognize and provide benefits, or assistance to the veterans through the years, until this recently implemented new parole program.
USCIS Director John Kramar provided a basic overview of the new parole program, including who are eligible, application process, et. He also underscored the following : first, the FWVP program is for those who are outside the United States and the parole travel documents may be issued to the beneficiary at the U.S. Embassy abroad; second, it does not provide legal status but lawful presence in the US while the applicant’s immigrant visa is being awaited ; and, third, for those who are already in the US but wish to avail of the parole program, they are advised to consult with lawyers / legal experts before leaving the United States.
Atty. Lou Tancinco discussed possible legal issues and constraints the community may face in the program’s implementation. These include submission and consolidation of the veterans’ records, and other documents to support the parole application. She also said that family members who are beneficiaries of approved Petition for Alien Relative or I-130 filed by their Filipino veteran or veteran widow parents are eligible for parole but their I-130 petition must have been approved on or before the filing date of the parole request.
The parole, she clarified, applies to (1) those with approved I-130 petitions (2) qualifying relationship before May 9, 2016; (3) residence in the US of the petitioning relative (4) immigrant visa petition is not yet current (4) petitioning relatives are either Filipino World War II veterans or are the surviving spouses of the individual. If both the Filipino World War II veteran and the spouse are deceased, the children of veterans who are beneficiaries of the I-130 petition are allowed to self petition for parole but must have the approved petition reinstated after the death of the petitioner.
The Talakayan ended with an open forum, with most of the comments and questions centered on how the program could be facilitated, submission of documents be made less cumbersome for the applicants, particularly the aging veterans or their surviving spouses or children.
The participants and organizers of Talakayan agree that more outreach information services must be organized to educate the public on the program. Director Kramar also mentioned that CIS plans to conduct more outreach sessions similar to the Talakayan, which he said was the first public outreach in the United States on this subject program.