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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Philippine Consulate in New York Hosts Town Hall Forum on Parole Visas for Filipino World War II Veterans and their Families

New York – The Philippine Consulate General in New York hosted a town hall forum on Parole Visas for Filipino World War II Veterans and their Families on Saturday afternoon, 27 August 2016. The Forum explained to attending community members the parole program policy based on the executive order signed by President Barack Obama last 8 June 2016. The attendees were further informed that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have started to allow certain Filipino World War II veteran family members who are beneficiaries of approved family-based immigrant visa petitions an opportunity to receive a discretionary grant of parole on an individual case basis, so that they may come to the United States as they wait for their immigrant visa to become available.

Upper Left photo: Deputy Consul General Kira D. Azucena gives the welcoming remarks. Upper right photo: Forum guest speaker Ms. Shyconia Burden, gives her presentation on the details of the parole eligibility to the audience. Lower left-Lower right photo: Mr. Everett M. Lo together with Ms. Burden and Ms. Consuelo Almonte, answer queries from the audience during the forum question-and-answer portion. (Photos by Wendell Gaa)

This parole policy was first announced in the White House report “Modernizing and Streamlining our Legal Immigration System for the 21stCentury” issued in July 2015.  There is an estimated 2,000 to 6,000 Filipino-American World War II veterans who are living in the United States today.  Among other things, this policy will enable eligible individuals to provide support and care to aging veteran family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. 

In her welcome remarks, Deputy Consul General Kira D. Azucena hailed the implementation of the Parole Visa Program as an important milestone triumph in the nationwide Filipino-American community’s ongoing campaign in lobbying the U.S. government to grant Filipino veterans the honor and recognition due to them.  She added that this newly enacted policy is timely considering that 2016 marks the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the United States.  She also expressed confidence that the Parole Visa Program would reunite many veterans with their families in the Philippines, and encouraged the community to continue supporting nationwide efforts to lobby the U.S. government on Filipino veteran matters, notably the pending House bill H.R. 2737 on the Awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal.

Ms. Consuelo Almonte, Founder-President of the Philippine Community Services for the Aging, and co-organizer of the town hall forum, introduced the guest speaker, Ms. Shyconia Burden, Community Relations Officer for the New York City District Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Ms. Burden elaborated on the details and intricacies of the Veteran FamilyParole Visa program, including the fact that certain family members of Filipino World War II veterans may be eligible to receive a discretionary grant of parole to come to the United States before their visa becomes available.  In limited cases, certain eligible relatives will be able to seek parole on their own behalf when their Filipino World War II veteran and his or her spouse are both deceased, she added.

The USCIS will review each case individually to determine whether authorizing parole is appropriate, on a case-by-case basis, for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit, Ms. Burden emphasized.

Upper Left photo: Mr. Eric Lachica, gives the program’s closing remarks. Upper right photo: Ms. Shyconia Burden (2nd from left) is handed a Certificate of Appreciation for serving as the town hall’s guest speaker, together with (l-r) Mr. Everett Lo, Ms. Consuelo Almonteand Deputy Consul General Kira D. Azucena. Lower leftphoto: Community leaders with the guest speaker, led by Atty. JT Mallonga (3rd from left). Lower right photo:(l-r): Mr. Wendell Gaa, Consulate staff, Ms. Burden, Mr. Lo, Mr. Romua, Consulate staff and Ms. Almonte. (Photos by Wendell Gaa)

During the town hall’s question-and-answer portion, Ms. Burden, together with Mr. Everett M. Lo of the Office of the Regional Commissioner for Public Affairs, Social Security Administration, and Ms. Almonte, addressed queries from audience on the Parole Visa program.  Handouts and brochures from the USCIS were also made available.  

At the conclusion of the Forum, Deputy Consul General Azucena handed Ms. Burden a Certificate of Appreciation. A brief musical intermission was provided by singer Marvin Gayatgay of the Great Filipino Composers Series. Closing remarks were delivered by Mr. Eric Lachica, community advocate with the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, followed by a reception at the lobby.

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