The Many (Forgotten) Faces of America
When the US naval bases in the Philippines closed in 1992, the military left behind thousands of Amerasian children. Since the closings, American presence still exists and -contrary to initial estimate of 52,000 – it is now estimated that there are 250,000 Amerasian children, ranging from newborn to geriatric, abandoned in the Philippines. These Amerasians are acutely vulnerable, particularly to human trafficking, and painfully stigmatized. They live in abject poverty, forcing them to continue the cycle of marginalized sub-existence and prostitution.
How can one be half-American and still not a citizen? The US Senate Judiciary Committee rejected attempts to include the Philippines in the Naturalization Act, “claiming that Filipino Amerasians were not victims of discrimination, that they were conceived from illegal prostitution, and that, unlike Amerasians in South Korea and Vietnam, they were born during peacetime. But none of these are unconscionable grounds for selectively preventing Filipino Amerasians from coming to this country.
At a time when the issue of immigration reform is before the nation, Amerasians need new leaders in Congress to speak on their behalf. What’s more, the military has recently announced that it will restore a significant presence in the Philippines; last year, over 70 ships stopped at Subic Bay, and over 100 planes stop at Clark Air Base each month. The United States, then, has an opportunity for redemption — to make sure Filipino Amerasians are not left behind by the ship again.” (1)
(1) “The Forgotten Amerasians,” by Christopher M. Lapinig, Op-Ed page, The New York Times, May 27, 2013 (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/opinion/the-forgotten-amerasians.html?_r=0)
(2) “Five times more ‘G.I. babies’than previously thought,” by Jarius Bondoc, The Philippine Star, December 17, 2012 (http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2012-12-17/886826/five-times-more-g.i.-babiesthan-previously-thought)
(3) “America’s forgotten children,” The Stream, Aljazeera, September 13, 2013 (http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/americas-forgotten-children)
Notes on Bayanihan Foundation’s work on the Filipino Amerasian issue by Dale Asis (written July 2011):
On July 2-3, 2011, the Bayanihan Foundation partners with WeDpro and Buklod, nongovernmental organizations (NGO)s in the Philippines to support the Filipino Amerasian community leaders in an important two-day conference celebrating their heritage and contribution to local Filipino society.
The conference goals included:
1) Setting up an organization of Amerasians in the Philippines that shall serve as a strategic venue for the promotion of their rights and welfare;
2) Formulating and executing strategic plan of programs and activities for the welfare of the Filipino Amerasian community; and
3) Securing support for the foundation’s public education and outreach in the United States, through a partnerships that will build awareness of and advocacy for the abandoned Amerasian children.
Who are the Filipino Amerasians?
In 1992, the United States military left the Philippines. I thought they took everything with them. But they left behind 50,000 Amerasian children whose fathers were American sailors and their mothers were assumed to be prostitutes. These Amerasians are America’s forgotten children.
In 1982, the United States Congress voted to grant U.S. citizenship to Amerasians from Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, and other Asian countries, in what was known as the Amerasian Homecoming Act. Although the Philippines has been a United States ally for more than a century, Filipino (and Japanese) offspring of soldiers were not included: they must be claimed by their former American G.I. fathers if they wish to claim their U.S. citizenship.
Why is the Bayanihan Foundation making this one of its partnership priorities?
Many Amerasian children are labeled Iniwan ng Barko (left by the ship). I met some of them during my first visit to Angeles in January 2011. I heard many of their tragic stories of discrimination and prejudice.
Many are unaware of this important issue yet it involves many complex issues and moral issues. What does the future hold for these forgotten children of the post-war world? What moral obligation does the US have to America’s forgotten children? Do they have to find their fathers in the US to find peace? Will their fathers and their families accept their Amerasian offspring? Will these Amerasians even adjust to life in the US after living in the Philippines all their lives? Or does the local Filipino society have to accept these forgotten children and not discriminate against them?
It is critical for the foundation to bring this issue to the forefront.