CELEBRATING FILIPINO AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH
(Extensions of Remarks - October 02, 2008)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E2207-E2208]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




              CELEBRATING FILIPINO AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

                                 ______
                                 

                         HON. NEIL ABERCROMBIE

                               of hawaii

                    in the house of representatives

                       Thursday, October 2, 2008

  Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Madam Speaker, I rise today in honor of Filipino 
American Heritage Month. It is with great pleasure that I join 
Filipinos across the country in recognizing the history, culture, and 
accomplishments of Filipino Americans. Filipino American Heritage Month 
has been celebrated nationwide every October since 1988, and the Hawaii 
State Legislature, on April 15, 2008, was the first governing body to 
officially recognize the month.
  There are nearly 4 million people of Filipino descent in the United 
States, and a sizeable

[[Page E2208]]

population of this group resides in my home State of Hawaii. Filipino 
Americans have been in the United States since the 18th century and 
have been in Hawaii since 1906, when the first Filipino migrant 
laborers came to Hawaii to work on the sugar and pineapple plantations. 
Those Filipinos, their descendants, and the recent immigrants to Hawaii 
and America have made an indelible impact on our culture, and we should 
be sure to take this month to recognize the contributions of Filipino 
Americans.
  While Filipinos have made great contributions to America, it is 
important that we not overlook the needs of the community, including a 
fair and sensible immigration policy. I chair the Immigration Task 
Force of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, CAPAC, and I 
will continue to fight for the needs of families within the immigration 
debate.
  One of the major issues for the Filipino Americans and other Asian 
Pacific American communities is family reunification: allowing 
relatives of legal permanent residents, other than spouses and minor 
children, to immigrate legally and join their families. It can take the 
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as long as 23 years 
to even consider an application for a family member from the 
Philippines.
  The extended family is a foundation in many of our cultures, and it 
provides real benefits to the greater society as well. Families often 
pool resources to educate children or purchase homes and establish 
roots in their communities. We often see extended family networks 
starting businesses, providing economic development and jobs. Congress 
must act to ensure that families who will contribute to American 
society are not punished by our immigration system.
  The treatment of Filipinos who fought with the United States Armed 
Forces in World War II is also an issue of great concern for Filipino 
Americans and a dark spot in American History. The Philippines became a 
United States possession after Spain ceded it as part of the treaty 
ending the Spanish-American War in 1898. In 1934, Congress created a 
10-year time frame for independence through the ``Philippine 
Independence Act.'' However, since the Philippines remained a colonial 
possession until 1946 the United States retained the right to call upon 
military forces organized by the Philippine government into the United 
States Armed Forces.
  On July 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a military 
order that brought the Philippine Commonwealth Forces under the control 
of the United States Armed Forces during World War II. These men 
bravely fought with our own troops during the war, and many perished or 
suffered severe wounds from the battles in the western Pacific Theater. 
After the surrender of Japan, Congress required the Philippine Forces 
to continue service their service. Many helped occupy lands, many 
oversaw military operations, and many made the ultimate sacrifice to 
secure our victory in World War II. Yet, when wartime service ended 
formally in 1946 they did not receive the same benefits and the same 
treatment as other American soldiers.
  Yet, for all their heroic and courageous actions, Congress passed the 
``Recession Act'' in February 1946. This essentially denied Filipino 
veterans any of the benefits that their American comrades in arms 
received, including full access to veterans' health care; service-
connected disability compensation, non-service connected disability 
compensation, dependent indemnity compensation, death pension, and full 
burial benefits. No other group of veterans has been systematically 
denied these benefits. While we are nearly out of time to right this 
wrong this Congress, I look forward to working with my colleagues in 
the 111th Congress on ensuring Filipino veterans the benefits they 
deserve.
  Filipino Americans have enriched the fabric of America, and I am 
proud to celebrate Filipino American Heritage Month. I look forward to 
continuing to work with the Filipino American community to address the 
needs and concerns of Filipino Americans throughout the United States.

                          ____________________