WBEZ | Filipinos http://www.wbez.org/tags/filipinos Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Filipino veteran fights for recognition http://www.wbez.org/news/filipino-veteran-fights-recognition-108111 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Filipino vet.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-46c07d48-f72d-e676-0403-6f80e1c1932d">Nearly seventy years after the end of WWII, war veteran Amado Bartolome is fighting what may end up being the final, insurmountable battle of his lifetime &mdash; one against American bureaucracy and the rigid processes that have denied him military benefits all these decades. Now 86 years old, Bartolome recounts his time as a Filipino guerrilla, helping U.S. troops find and capture Japanese soldiers that fled into the mountains of East Central Luzon. &ldquo;If I am not the one scouting, maybe thousands or hundreds American soldiers [would have] died,&rdquo; he remembered.</p><p dir="ltr">Bartolome is just one of many Filipino veterans in this situation today. He lives with his wife in a seniors highrise in Edgewater, on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side. Together, they survive on $13,000 a year in Social Security benefits and a pension he receives from a job he held at UIC. He does not receive a <a href="http://benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsheets/serviceconnected/filipinovets.pdf">monthly military compensation that his injury would entitle him to</a>, because he has not been able to prove his service to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The same has been true for Filipino WWII veterans across the U.S., as well as the Philippines.</p><p dir="ltr">The U.S. first engaged the Japanese in the Philippines in 1941, disastrously, with General Douglas MacArthur fleeing the islands. But MacArthur returned in 1944 and &mdash; with the help of the guerillas &mdash; defeated the Japanese. Bartolome served until he was hurt by a Japanese hand grenade.</p><p dir="ltr">In the immediate aftermath of the war, Congress passed the Rescission Act of 1946, stripping Filipino veterans of their entitlement to all military benefits. Over time, some of those benefits have been restored. Also after the war, the U.S. embarked on an effort to document all the fighting units and individuals that had served its interests in the Philippines.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;(There) was a large-scale campaign in the media to monitor this recognition and to call forward everybody who served,&rdquo; explained Col. Nicholas Amodeo, Assistant Deputy for Programs for the U.S. Army. &ldquo;The idea was to make sure everybody who served in any capacity, who had any claim in any of these statuses, came forward.&rdquo; Amodeo explained that starting in 1946, all Filipino fighters were asked to report to offices in the Philippines with evidence showing when they enlisted, with whom, where they fought, and what they did.</p><p dir="ltr">The U.S. and Philippine governments closed this window in 1948. &ldquo;So we went through a period of time, 5-8 years of reconciliation and review,&rdquo; said Amodeo, &ldquo;<a href="http://research.archives.gov/description/6921767">recognizing and revoking recognition of individuals and units</a>.&rdquo; Those names that were recognized were added to the roster of names held at the National Personnel Records Center in Missouri, the authoritative repository of names of all people considered to have served on behalf of the U.S.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Bartolome&rsquo;s name is not on that roster. In fact, the National Archives in Maryland has no record of H Company, 2nd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment BMD, ECLGA, with whom Bartolome claims to have served.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">But Bartolome can point to piles of papers in his cramped apartment. &ldquo;File 201 complete,&rdquo; he said, leafing through them. &ldquo;Form 23 ... .&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Bartolome has saved his discharge papers, gathered affidavits from comrades and commanders attesting to his service, and even holds up a photo of himself posing with a group in uniform. &ldquo;So everything is here in my whole documents,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">But according to Col. Amodeo, having records in your possession that show you served is not sufficient. &ldquo;An adjudication may have revoked your recognition, and only when we go through this process do we have the detailed information,&rdquo; he said. It&rsquo;s not clear whether that is what happened with Bartolome&rsquo;s unit.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">There are serious consequences for Bartolome. For one, he said he has not been able to receive monthly compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Nor has he been able to claim a more recent benefit that was extended to Filipino veterans in 2009: a lump sum equity payment. As part of the Stimulus Plan, Congress approved one-time payments of $15,000 to Filipino veterans living in the U.S., and $9,000 to those living in the Philippines. For Bartolome, this would amount to more than a year&rsquo;s income.</p><p>Roughly 19,000 Filipino veterans have been able to claim the one-time payment, but roughly 12,000 applicants who claim to have served were turned down, for a number of reasons. But according to Nicholas Pamperin, Acting Director of the Manila Regional Office for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the majority of denials were attributed to an inability to find the applicant&rsquo;s name on the military roster.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They are hopeless, depressed, lonely, frustrated,&rdquo; said Jerry Clarito, Executive Director of the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment in Chicago, and a past organizer of Filipino veterans fighting for equity benefits. Clarito said many of these veterans need the money, but the lack of recognition is, in fact, a deeper issue. &ldquo;They know they served, they were in the battle, and now they find that there&rsquo;s no help. That they&rsquo;re being ignored.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders assembled a working group to look into the issue, but it <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/07/09/recognizing-extraordinary-contribution-filipino-veterans">recently reaffirmed the existing process for claims</a>. Bartolome&rsquo;s final hope is a hearing before the Veterans Board of Appeals this month.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 19 Jul 2013 08:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/filipino-veteran-fights-recognition-108111 Filipinos wait (and wait some more) for immigration reform http://www.wbez.org/news/filipinos-wait-and-wait-some-more-immigration-reform-105779 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F81060794&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/web.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 206px; width: 275px;" title="Remedios Cabagnot and her son Adolph have waited nearly twenty years for the rest of their family's reunification visas to come through.(WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" />Remedios Cabagnot keeps a shrine of small, framed photos and trinkets above the television in the Lakeview condo she shares with her adult son. They&rsquo;re photos of family members, and one is a black-and-white image of a young man in his army suit. It&rsquo;s Cabagnot&rsquo;s late husband, Serviliano, who was among hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who fought the Japanese under U.S. command during World War II. &ldquo;We really fought for them,&rdquo; Cabagnot reminisces. &ldquo;I can still remember the war. I was a teenager then.&rdquo;</p><p>Remedios, 86, is now saddled with a bevy of health troubles, including gout and lung problems. She has been fighting a separate battle of her own these last twenty years, one to reunite with her other grown children in the US. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a land of honey,&rdquo; she says, smiling. &ldquo;We loved America and we wanted to see America.&rdquo;</p><p>Remedios arrived in the U.S. in 1993, joining her husband who had come just a few years earlier through the Immigration Act of 1990. That act contained a special provision to allow Filipino World War II veterans to immigrate to the US. Their son Adolph was already in the U.S., but they left behind their other three adult children, assuming it would not take long to obtain visas for them and their families.</p><p>&ldquo;We petitioned them right away, [in] &lsquo;93,&rdquo; Remedios recalls. &ldquo;They gave us requirements: Do this, do that, so we did that. We filed everything, and then they were all approved.&rdquo; Remedios&rsquo; oldest son, Alphonsus, was approved in 1993, before the others. Remedios said her family is tight-knit, and they were encouraged by the speed with which the reunification petitions were approved.</p><p>But the Cabagnots discovered the bottleneck in family reunifications that has hindered many immigrants from establishing complete lives in the U.S.: The federal government caps the number of family reunification visas each year for non-dependent and non-immediate relations.</p><p>When the number of approved petitions exceeds the cap, it creates a queue. The longest queues are for prospective immigrants from China, India, Mexico, and, longest of all, the Philippines.</p><p>Last month the State Department was <a href="http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5834.html">just getting to some Filipino visa applications from April of 1989</a>. Among those in line are children of Filipino war veterans. Jerry Clarito, Executive Director of the Chicago-based Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment, says this does not honor those veterans. &ldquo;They were in the front line of the battle. Now they are behind, waiting,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So what happened with the veterans who came here? They came here, they continued contributing to America, but they&rsquo;re doing it alone.&rdquo;</p><p>Clarito plans to mobilize Filipinos now that Washington is revisiting the issue of immigration reform, and he has already started reaching out to congressional representatives. He says an obvious solution would be to exempt Filipino veterans&rsquo; children from the cap on family reunification visas, much like young, dependent children are not subjected to a limit.</p><p>Clarito said the local Filipino community did not push hard for such a change in 2007, the last year that Congress considered comprehensive immigration reform measures. But this time around, Clarito hopes lawmakers will seize the opportunity, even if they would only affect a small fraction of immigrant families. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very, very small change, compared to the millions [of undocumented immigrants],&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But to make this humane, and really comprehensive, we have to listen to those voices that are usually not being heard.&rdquo;</p><p>The story of Remedios Cabagnot and her children, meanwhile, has only gotten more complicated. After 17 years of waiting, Remedios&rsquo; oldest son, Alphonsus, got a visa number in 2010. But before he completed the final requirements to come to the U.S., his father, Serviliano Cabagnot, fell ill. Serviliano was hospitalized, and died at 91, before Alphonsus was able to come.</p><p>Remedios was then dealt a second blow when she received a letter from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. &ldquo;We were all devastated when they told us that our prayers and petitions died with my husband.&rdquo; Because veteran Serviliano Cabagnot had been the sponsor for the visa petitions, the petitions were revoked with his death.</p><p>Remedios&rsquo; attempts to change the sponsorship of her children&rsquo;s petitions to her name have been twice rejected. Last month, she appealed directly to Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, with the hope that his office might intervene. In an email to WBEZ, Durbin wrote &ldquo;It should be much easier to replace one U.S. citizen immediate family member with another on visa petitions &ndash; it&rsquo;s common sense particularly in this case.&rdquo;</p><p>In the meantime, Remedios and her children email each other updates on the status of visas, ever hopeful. &ldquo;I miss my children so much,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;My grandchildren, some are married. I miss them so much.&rdquo;</p><p>Follow Odette Yousef on Twitter @<a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">oyousef</a></p><p><em>Correction: The original version of this story stated Remedios Cabagnot&#39;s age as 89. She is 86.</em></p></p> Tue, 26 Feb 2013 21:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/filipinos-wait-and-wait-some-more-immigration-reform-105779