H.R. 4007, The Amerasian Paternity Recognition Act

Amerasian Child

I am not sure if many of you who read my blog knows, but I originally came to Vietnam back in May, 2004, as a volunteer to help out with Vietnamese Amerasians. In the US, I had formed the Amerasian Foundation which I still run mostly as an online entity from Saigon. I am currently designing a new database for Amerasians in an effort to help them find their fathers, and vice versa.

There is a bill currently going through Congress which, if passed, will allow some Vietnam-Era Amerasians obtain automatic US citizenship. Many of you may be surprised that the majority of Vietnamese Amerasians that made it to the US are not US Citizens. Citizenship classes have not been productive since the majority of Vietnamese Amerasians are illiterate. In short, the are unable to take the US citizenships examination. There has been a lot of effort to try to get this bill passed as law:

Detailed Summary

Amerasian Paternity Recognition Act – Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to confer automatic citizenship on aliens residing in the United States in lawful permanent resident status: (1) pursuant to a classification petition approved under a provision that gives preferential treatment to persons born in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, or Thailand after 1950 and before October 22, 1982, and fathered by a U.S. citizen; or (2) who were born in Vietnam after January 1, 1962, and before January 1, 1976, and fathered by a U.S. citizen.

Current Status

Latest Major Action: 11/2/2007: Referred to House subcommittee. Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.

From: http://www.washingtonwatch.com/bills/show/110_HR_4007.html

This bill looks like it will be passed sometime in 2008. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, the two largest groups of Amerasians have been excluded, again. The Filipino Amerasians and Japanese Amerasians (primarily in Okinawa) are two of the oldest and largest groups of Amerasians. There are roughly between 150,000-200,000 Filipino Amerasians left behind in the Philippines. In Okinawa, the number could be around 15,000-20,000 of known Japanese Amerasians (many thousands more are unaccounted for).

What of these Amerasians???

6 comments on “H.R. 4007, The Amerasian Paternity Recognition Act”

  1. D

    I don’t know if I would say a majority of Vietnamese Ameriasians are illiterate and therefore do not get naturalized. Working with a few families, it’s more of the case where once folks have permanent residence, they do not seek to jump through further hoops and hurdles.

    If this bill becomes law, all those Ameriasians who could qualify to enter the US as a permanent resident under 8 USC 1154(f) (Section 204(f) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act) and do enter get the automatic citizenship. So hurdles still exist, of course. And it is for all Ameriasians born in those countries – even if your parent is a female college hippie on a spiritual vacation during the relevant time period.

    Why not the Philippines and Japan? War the answer to most questions? (yeah, there was that little WWII thing, but a Japanese passport is basically equivalent to a US one)

  2. Jon Hoff

    Hi Kev
    Sounds like a mixed bag of emotions for you.
    The legislation sounds like interesting and welcome news for Amerasians. Being granted their birth rights is only fair. Of course there are more practical issues such as naturalization if non-English speaking Amerasians then made their way to the U.S, but that is a separate issue. On the flip side is the omission of the Filipino and Japanese Amerasians. Not sure about the argument that a ‘Japanese passport is basically equivalent to a US one’ – that’s not the point at all in this sensitive issue.

  3. SaigonNezumi (Kevin)

    @D: Vietnamese Amerasians being illiterate but that was one of the arguments I heard. When I volunteered for the Amerasian Mentor Project with World Vision back in 1993, they told me most Amerasians they brought in were illiterate. Hence the mentor program. Need to look more into this.

    In regards to Japanese Amerasians, post-WWII Japanese Amerasians were considered Americans so they could not get Japanese citizenship. Same in South Korea at the time. Today they can get Japanese citizenship, I heard, but back in the 40s-50s, possibly 60s, they could not.

    Filipino Amerasians are lucky in that they are considered Filipino citizens.

    @Jon: I argued that with AmerasianUSA once in the past. All they need to do is fill out the paperwork. There may even be a citizenship test but they have the booklet and classes to study for it. That is where the question of illiteracy comes in. It is a very sensitive issue.

  4. D.

    Kev: I wonder what the World Vision folks meant when they said the people were illiterate – in what language would be my question. Being illiterate in Vietnamese? That would be highly doubtful. You’ve spent tons of time in Vietnam and surely you would agree that, outside of isolated ethnic minorities in the Highlands, you do not find illiterate local Vietnamese because the written language is so phonetic. Hey, that’s why unwashed masses of expats can sprinkle Vietnamese in their blogs!

    Vietnamese Ameriasians I’ve met in the States have deep resentment towards Vietnam and its people, wholly based on their treatment by parts of its society. They hate Vietnam more than the anti-Communists in the States (who of course only have enmity towards the government and not its people).

    This is sad, of course, and likewise it is sad that sectors of Japanese (and Filpino?) society treat their Ameriasians similarly. But I can understand why US lawmakers stopped short in including these groups of Ameriasians – American does not have as strong a moral duty to make whole what foreign societies have inflicted on these folks. In the case of South-East Asian Ameriasians, the extensive and damaging US military involvement ups the moral debt.

    Jon: if you’ve read the blog post closely, you would see that your comment about naturalization does not jibe. This bill provides for automatic naturalization if the person qualifies to come in as an SEA Ameriasian.

    And as to the comment that a Japanese passport is equivalent to a US one, that is exactly relevant to this issue. You do not need to visit the US Embassy in Vietnam to know that there is a line around the block applying for a US tourist visa (much less the more difficult permanent entry visa). You do not need to book a flight to Tokyo to know that there is no such line there. And why is that? Because if you hold a Japanese passport, you have many, many more options and avenues to gain permanent entry to the US. Heck, Japan is on the US’s visa waiver program for a reason.

    Compare and contrast this to the SEA countries. Admittedly, the Phillipines is closer to its SEA neighbors than Japan in terms of the USCIS’s friendliness to its nationals.

  5. SaigonNezumi (Kevin)

    Hey D, I meant to refer you to http://www.amerasianusa.org/

    These guys focus on Vietnamese Amerasian citizenship issues. I got some information from them. They are very active in the US but essentially, they are also stating that Amerasians in Vietnam were not allow into the schools hence putting them in a disadvantage when coming to the US.

    Amerasians had it horrible in South Korea with many stories of villages murdering Amerasian babies. The Catholic Church there was influential in taking many of these children in. Today the Christian groups play an active role in help South Korean Amerasians. MASH has an episode about a Korean Amerasian baby on how the US would not allow it to emigrate Stateside.

    In regards to Japanese Amerasian, do not be on the assume that Japanese Amerasians born there get automatic Japanese citizenship. They do not since Japan considers them Americans, especially in Okinawa. Thailand and the Philippines are the only countries that will give Amerasians citizenship.

  6. Joseph Somoza

    hope that US,in behalf of that would be Preisdent Obama,could take a
    glance on our plight.I am amrasian as well,and I can say it is really hard.
    Considering the present crisis all are facing,it might not be given some attention.
    I hope there could be small attemp to review on the basis of US citizenship for us.
    Specially us,who are located here in the Philippines,which is not included for
    the naturalization benefit.I might be lucky enough,without my father made my way up to college
    by myself as majority of the amerasians are in the state of poverty,even with my education,still am
    am striving for a living.How much more my fellow amerasians who haven’t been to
    school for even primary education.
    Hoping on the long run,one day,America can take a glance on us-Amerasians

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