In the 1940’s, over 250,000 Filipinos served with the United States military during World War II and were promised many benefits afforded to those serving in the military. But in 1946, the Rescission Act took away Filipino WWII veteran’s benefits, services and privileges that were initially promised to them. The Philippines is the only country out of the 36 that allied with the U.S. in the war to not receive military benefits. They were not eligible for non-war related disability pensions that their American counterparts received. In the past 63 years since then, many Filipino veterans have been fighting to lobby Congress for the benefits they were promised for their sacrifice and service. Despite the numerous bills since 1993 that have been introduced to Congress to return their benefits, none have been successfully passed. Today, the Filipino American community, both young and old, have been continuing to struggle and fight for the rights of the Filipino heroes.
Obama Picks Two Filipino Advisers To APA Commission
President Obama has appointed two prominent Filipino Americans as White House advisers on Asian American issues, reports the Philippine News. Rozita Villanueva Lee, a familiar face on Capitol Hill during the fight for Filipino World War II veterans’ rights, and Hector Vargas, Jr., a well-known gay rights activist, were named as new members of the Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Lee is the national vice chairperson of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA), an umbrella of various Fil-Am organizations across the United States. Vargas is executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GMLA), which claims to have a membership of more than 2,000 medical professionals spread over 50 states and 12 countries. Hyeok Kim, the Executive Director of Seattle’s InterIm Community Development Association, was also appointed by Pres. Obama. Read an interview with her in this issue.
Because of the passage of the dual citizenship bill, also known as the Citizenship Retention and Re-acquisition Act of 2003, Filipino Americans who became U.S. citizens but lost their Philippine citizenship due to naturalization were eligible to become Filipino citizens once again. A year after the passage in 2004, about 6,000 people became dual citizens of both the United States and the Philippines. Citizens are actively encouraged by the Philippine government to visit or return back to the country. A dual citizen can vote and own property. On the other hand, they must pay taxes on any income earned in the Philippines.
As a result of Spanish rule for centuries, 90 percent of the population of the Philippines practice the Catholic religion. In the Southern Philippines, the prevalent religion is Islam, and represents about 5 percent of the total population. About 3 percent of Filipinos practice Buddhism and the rest identify as other, which include Jewish, Protestants and animists.
Much of the Filipino community is middle class with a high representation in service-oriented professions such as health care. According to the 2002 U.S. Economic Census, over 125,000 businesses are Filipino-owned, many of which are restaurants and health care and social assistance-oriented. The economic success of Filipino Americans is noticeably increasing with a majority moving to the suburbs and increasing educational attainment levels.
Since 1980, the Philippines have beat out China and Japan in sending more immigrants to the U.S, making Filipinos the largest immigration group from Asia, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Recently, Filipinos are lured to the states by economic opportunities to occupy jobs within the tourism industry as employees in hotels, shops and restaurants as well as the health care industry, mostly in nursing positions. Like immigrants of all other nationalities, Filipinos experience long-waiting periods of visa issuance from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.