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A Broken Promise

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In the Filipino- American community, one of the most critical long-time issues is the broken promise of the U.S. government to those Filipino veterans who fought alongside the American military forces during World War II. These forgotten heroes still wait for the benefits that were once promised by the U.S. government. Of the 66 countries recognized for their help under the U.S. military service during the war, the Filipino soldiers are the only group yet to be fully acknowledged. Throughout the years, these Filipino veterans have received only partial benefits such as receiving U.S. citizenship and access to care in hospitals, clinics as well as nursing homes but the benefits still have not been completed. Although time after time, those benefits have been on and off. These veterans were and still are not eligible for non-war related disability pensions that other non-Filipino World War II veterans have received. As well as receiving less money then promised, Filipino war veterans are growing restless and old waiting for the time they can receive the full benefits they have been wishing for. Our U.S. government must realize that these forgotten heroes have done so much for America during WWII and should award the Filipino veterans the full benefits they deserve and were promised.

Before World War II, a big problem for Filipinos was citizenship in the United States. Immigration laws in which "for such purposes the Philippine Island shall be considered as a separate country and shall have for each fiscal year a quota of fifty" (Catapusan 39). These laws made immigration nearly impossible for Filipinos to become citizens of the United States. However, Filipinos who had gained U.S. citizenship found themselves being treated as aliens. Even after becoming U.S. citizens, these Filipinos felt they weren't receiving the same equal rights and protection a U.S. citizen should be given. Although it was tough to gain citizenship, many Filipinos discovered a loophole by getting involved in mixed marriages. Filipinos married white Americans or U.S. citizens in order to obtain citizenship. Unfortunately, "by 1937, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington had enacted laws prohibiting marriages between Filipinos and whites" (Melendy 53). Filipinos then realized another way to gain U.S. citizenship right before World War II started.

Prior to World War II, a document was approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt which made it possible for Filipinos to serve in the United States Army. In 1945, the U.S. went to the Philippines to recruit more than 200,000 Philippine scouts and declared that those who joined would receive full benefits of a U.S. veteran in return for their services. Given the opportunity, those 200,000 Filipino soldiers fought alongside U.S. troops during World War II and believed that in return they would receive U.S. citizenship. Melendy proclaims that "the granting of citizenship in 1946 provided Filipinos with the opportunity to fight the exclusionists and their attempted legal discrimination. The Filipinos newly acquired status also provided the means by which they could seek economic and social rights" (57). During the war, Filipino soldiers had a major impact in the Pacific in their efforts to defend the islands fighting courageously in crucial battles against Japan. At first the social status of the Filipinos soldiers did not change as they were still discriminated against by the American people who still viewed Filipinos as "strangers." As soon as the war began, Filipinos were then seen "as members of the U.S. armed forces..." (Taraki 101). During the war, Filipinos were encouraged to take the land once owned by U.S. residents of Japanese descent, but only to find it caused an identity problem as they feared they would be mistaken for Japanese or of Japanese descent. In order to solve this problem, most Filipinos wore buttons that read "I am a Filipino" (Taraki 103).

After the war ended, a new law passed that allowed Filipino immigrants become citizens. The law increased the number of Filipino immigrants who could enter the United States from fifty to one hundred per year. Those who had fought in the war and helped America were granted citizenship and made America their permanent home. But even with their new status, it was not accepted by white America. In 1945, the U.S. government promised that all Filipino soldiers who fought under the U.S. would be treated as U.S. veterans with full entitlement to benefits, but "to some people, they [Filipinos] remained just "Orientals" (Taraki 106). Filipinos did not see a change in the way they were treated and were still viewed as strangers of the U.S., not regarded as equals in American society. They were labeled as "guests" in the United States and nothing more and this made Filipinos wonder if they would ever be treated equally and fairly. Filipino WWII veterans had put a great amount of effort in helping the United States, but in return the U.S. government had disregarded their promises they had made, creating resentment for the Filipinos because they had gone unnoticed, even until this day.

Filipinos did not understand why they were still treated as aliens when immigrants from other countries that had gained citizenship were treated as real American citizens who were given the full benefits that were also promised to Filipinos. In a document it exclaims that "We [Filipinos] came here because Americans went to the Philippines. They urged Filipinos to come here [America]" (Kim 103-104). Filipinos were given the idea that America had unlimited opportunities as everyone was free and equal. When the Filipinos had agreed to migrate to America, it did not turn out the way they envisioned it to be. By this time, Filipinos were tired of the unfair treatment, being classified as aliens and wanted to be granted the naturalization rights that were promised by the American government.

A big disappointment arose when Congress revoked their promise to the Filipinos in 1946. The American government withdrew its commitments right after the war had ended and at the same time they claimed the Philippines as an independent country. Even though some Filipino WWII veterans received part of the veterans' benefits, they still wait for the Congress to overturn the broken promise and bring back the full benefits and recognition that was once promised to them, which they had truly earned sixty years ago. Acaudalado Gador states that Filipinos had fought courageously and successfully along with America during the war, but they are the only group of WWII veterans that have not received the full benefits of a U.S. veteran (1). There are not many alive now, as many have passed away. Recently, on January 21, 2007, the Manila Times (Philippines) News declared that "only 12,418 Filipino World War II veterans



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