the U.S. invasion of Iraq getting mixed reviews - largely influenced
by the embarrassing failure to uncover weapons of mass destruction,
surprising Iraqi resistance to their "liberation," and
disturbing reports of high civilian casualties caused by U.S. cluster
bombs - Washington is nevertheless gearing up for a new battle on
the home front.
But this one's tougher. Already, indications
are that implementing Bush's domestic agenda won't be as easy as
invading another sovereign country. The Senate has already cut his
$700 billion tax cut into half. And there's growing unease not only
about the cost of this war but about a huge budget deficit which
the administration would most assuredly use as an excuse to cut
social services and other obligations.
Among the victims? Veterans. After
being hailed in the halls of Congress as heroes, their benefits
get slashed. Go figure. Of the 435 representatives and 100 senators
- most of whom supported the decision to go to war, only one has
a close relative serving in the armed forces.
But this is exactly the reception
that our troops will get when they come back. No surprise there.
It happened after World War II and Vietnam. After sending them to
battle, the U.S. government pretty much ignores them after the fighting
is done and over with. Many end up jobless, or homeless. The wounded
and the maimed would have to fend for themselves with whatever little
benefits they get.
Among these returning soldiers are
approximately 40 Filipino Americans and medical personnel who risked
their lives in this illegal and immoral war. Two of them - Marine
Sgt. Joseph Menusa, and US Army Ranger Staff Sgt. Nino D. Livaudais
- were killed in action. A third, Spc. Joseph Hudson, was captured
by Iraqi forces but later released.
As a consolation, the U.S. granted
citizenship to Menusa - who was an immigrant - posthumously. Legislation
is underway to do the same for all immigrants who served in this
war, but only if they died. This prompted angry reactions from families
of surviving soldiers. "Why wait until they're dead?"
asked one immigrant mother at a town hall meeting in Los Angeles.
Unofficial responses from government sources acknowledge that extending
citizenship to immigrant servicemen and women while they're still
alive could be problematic. One reason cited is the possibility
of abuse. Which is, of course, ridiculous. This prompted Cardinal
Roger Mahony of Los Angeles Diocese to write President Bush urging
him to grant citizenship to immigrant soldiers as soon as they are
accepted into the military. "There's something terribly wrong
with our immigration policies if it takes death on the battlefield
in order to earn citizenship," Cardinal Mahony wrote.
Newspaper editorials also support
this move. The San Francisco Chronicle recently pointed out that
"to gain citizenship through death is a cruel fate. To truly
honor the dead, President Bush should extend citizenship to all
immigrants serving in the military who desire it. He must revise
overly broad security initiatives that cast a cloud of suspicion
on all immigrants, legal or not. He must reopen negotiations with
Mexico on amnesty for undocumented immigrants who have made positive
contributions to the nation."
This change in policy would, of course,
be welcomed in the Filipino community. According to official US
Department of Defense figures, Filipinos comprise 20.6% of all noncitizens
in the US Armed Forces, more than the combined total of Mexicans
(12.7%) and other Latin Americans (5.1%).
UPDATE ON VETERANS
With the nation's attention now focused on domestic issues, the
Filipino American community is gearing up to rabble-rouse once again
about the plight of Filipino World War II veterans when Congress
resumes on April 29. The participation of Filipino American servicemen
in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it is hoped, will cast the veterans
story in a more favorable light.
The American Coalition for Filipino
Veterans is renewing its push for the passage of a health bill,
HR 664 and S.68. The immediate goal: hold hearings in the House
and Senate Veterans Affairs committees.
The National Network for Veterans
Equity (NNVE), with chapters in San Francisco, New Jersey and Chicago,
is preparing to launch another grassroots campaign. As it did in
the last two years, NNVE is working hard to put pressure on Congress
to pass HR 677 - the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill of 2003. Here
in Chicago, NNVE's affiliate chapter is intensifying its education
and organizing work. For instance, it is collaborating with the
Pintig Cultural Group to present "Alien Citizen" during
Asian Heritage Month. Headed by IVEC President Arcadio Calabas and
FilCRA coordinator Jerry Clarito, this effort to highlight the immigrants
and veterans issue deserves community support. The play itself,
described as "a riveting piece of theatre," calls attention
to the injustice created by the U.S. Rescission Act of 1946, which
denied rights and benefits to many Filipino veterans.
The Los Angeles-based FilAmVets Foundation,
Inc., for its part, plans to take advantage of President Arroyo's
state visit on May 19 by organizing a caravan to Washington DC.
It plans to appeal to President Bush to issue an executive order
forming a Filipino World War II Veterans Commission under the auspices
of the Department of Veterans Affairs. In the view of its members,
this measure would help facilitate "a final resolution for
entitlement of full U.S. veterans benefits for those Filipino veterans
who served under the U.S. Army Forces and the American Flag regardless
of their present residence and citizenship."
Organizers of these various initiatives
all agree that their strategic mission is to restore the honor and
dignity of Filipino veterans. Nothing short of HR 677's passage
will bring closure to their long struggle for equity and justice.
The National Federation of Filipino
American Associations (NaFFAA) and the Philippine Embassy are working
closely with these groups to achieve this goal.
LIBERTY SHIELD The new Department of Homeland Security has recently
developed a list of thirty-three countries and two territories,
including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines,
and Thailand, whose nationals will be placed under mandatory detention
by DHS if they seek asylum in the United States. Civil rights advocates
are alarmed by this development.
this list is part of the broader war on terrorism. This targeting
of asylum seekers from so-called "al-Qaeda" active nations
prompted this response from the National Asian Pacific American
targeting of individuals that have been persecuted, jailed, and
tortured, only to be placed under mandatory detention without benefit
of judicial discretion when they are seeking refuge and protection
in America, is extremely troubling," said Karen K. Narasaki,
President and Executive Director of NAPALC. "In many instances
those individuals were the people who took a stand against the oppressive
governments and regimes that have attacked our American values."
POSTCRIPT. With Washington still giddy about its "victory"
in Iraq, expect more war talk in the air, especially from Pentagon.
The anti-war movement - which has grown surprisingly well within
a few months before the first bombs were dropped - is also expected
to renew its challenge to administration policy of pre-emptive strikes.
The movement has successfully mobilized large numbers of protesters,
notably from church groups and labor unions. Already, this diverse
coalition of peace and justice activists have vowed to pour their
energies in the 2004 elections.
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STORY FOR FRONTPAGE
3RD STORY FOR COMMUNITY PAGE
license ban vs. foreigners temporarily lifted
the next three consecutive Mondays of May 2003, foreign nationals
who were previously unable to obtain an Illinois driver's license
due to lack of social security card, can get an Illinois drivers
license, the Illinois Office of the Secretary of State Jessie White
currently available are May 5, 12 and 19, 2003. Applications were
also made available on April 14, 21, 28.
Qualifying applicants for the Pilot Program must be able to provide
evidence of residency in Illinois as well as his/her lawful nonimmigrant
status. They must pass the vision screening, the written exam, (oral
examinations may be given) and the road exam.
Applicants are also required to provide proof of insurance on the
vehicle to be used for the drive exam and the vehicle used must
pass safety inspection.
Applicants must schedule an appointment with the Secretary of States
office in order to participate in the program.
If applicant is a student, the applicant must provide a letter from
the school substantiating residence, and current enrollment status.
To schedule an appointment in the Chicago Metro Area with the Illinois
Office of the Secretary of State, please call (312) 814-1132.