Filipino WW2 U.S. Veterans Fight 4 Equity

Gregorio Rivera's Citizenship
Filing of FVEC Claims thru the VA
Advocacy for FVEC
FVEC, Equity or Not Equity?
Ongoing Lobby post FVEC
Filvets Excluded from "Missouri List"
Sgt Realuyo: Bury Me @ Arlington
FVEC in the Media
H.R. 1 & S. 366
Lobby for S.366
H.R. 2638
Other Bills Enacted to Law
Pending Bills
Legislation GRAVEYARD
H.R. 6897
S. 1315 & S.A. 4572
S. 1315: the Democrats & the Republicans
The American Legion & Other Oppositionists
Senate & House Honoring Filvets
Legislative Reports
Legislative Testimonies
Supporters 4 Filvets
In Their Own Words
PhilAm Organizations & Activists
Immigration & Nationality Act
Hibi & Other Court Cases
Gregorio Rivera's Citizenship
Rescission Acts of 1946
U.S. Presidents & the Filvets
A Plea for U.S. Apology
Philippine Presidents & the Filvets
Filipino WW2 U.S. Veterans Name List A-Z
Balitang Beterano by Col Quesada 2002
Balitang Beterano by Col Quesada 2003
Balitang Beterano by Col Quesada 2004
Balitang Beterano by Col Quesada 2005-2007
Ordeal in War's Hell by Col Quesada
Freedom @ Dawn by Col Quesada
Col Frank Quesada, RIP

On-Again, Off-Again American

Man Without a Country No Longer Adrift; Judge Returns U.S. Citizenship


Gregorio Calantas Rivera, a native Filipino, served five years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was held as a Japanese prisoner of war. He survived the infamous Bataan death march.

The United States expressed its gratitude by giving him citizenship. But then the U.S. government abruptly yanked it away, saying immigration authorities made a mistake. For the past six years, Rivera, now 74, who lives in San Diego, has been a man without a country.

On Monday, the same federal judge in San Diego who officially had deemed Rivera stateless ruled that a technicality in the immigration laws had made him eligible again for American citizenship. U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. administered the oath immediately.

When the oath was done, at the end of a seven-minute hearing that brought to a close six years of legal limbo, Rivera, clutching an American flag, his wife, Paciencia, and naturalization certificate 14741053, said, "I feel great now."

Immigration officials made no special exception for

Rivera or recognition of his valor. Instead, they concluded that he was eligible to become an American through the amnesty provisions afforded farm workers under the 1986 immigration reforms.

Rivera qualified because he used to pick grapes up and down California.

"My faith in divine providence, as well as the great leaders of America and the fairness and justice of the American system, made me feel that eventually I would again triumph," he said.

His wife said, "I see that fairness has been shown to us."

Rivera's long quest for citizenship is not unique. An estimated 150,000 Filipino veterans served the U.S. military during World War II.

For them, citizenship, first promised 50 years ago, is only two weeks off. Beginning May 1, a bill signed last November by President Bush offers summary naturalization to Filipino war veterans.

The sweeping bill also sharply raises U.S. immigration limits for Irish, Italian, Polish and other immigrants.

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order incorporating the Philippine armed forces into the U.S. military, pledging citizenship to Filipinos who joined the fight against Japan. At the time, the Philippines was a U.S. colony.

Rivera, who had been in the Philippine army, joined up.

During the war, Rivera claims, he made an oral request for U.S. citizenship. However, the request never reached American immigration officials because the commanding officer who received it died during the Bataan death march.

About 10,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war died at the hands of Japanese soldiers during the 55-mile march. Rivera survived because he escaped into the jungle.

When the war ended, Rivera remained in the Philippines. But, in August, 1982, on a trip to America to visit family, he decided to apply for citizenship. One of his 13 children, a daughter who lives in San Diego, is married to an American in the U.S. Navy. Rivera began working in California vineyards.

In November, 1984, Thompson declared Rivera a U.S. citizen based on his military service. Rivera renounced his Philippine citizenship.

Two months later, however, he was asked to voluntarily give up his U.S. citizenship because officials at the Immigration and Naturalization Service had erred and allowed him to become a citizen under a law that applied to U.S. veterans from other countries--but not from the Philippines.

The wartime naturalization program that Roosevelt promised had expired--in 1946. There simply was no law under which Rivera could become a U.S. citizen based on military service, and he was not eligible for any other program, INS attorney Alan Rabinowitz said.

Rivera refused to relinquish his citizenship. So on Jan. 29, 1985, Thompson stripped him of it.

Thompson also ruled that Rivera's 1942 request was not legally valid evidence because it never reached U.S. immigration officials and because Rivera had no way of verifying that he ever made the request.

In 1986, Congress enacted the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which created a pair of amnesty programs offering legal residence--the familiar "green card"--to two distinct groups, foreigners who could show that they had been residing illegally in the United States since 1982 and laborers who had done at least 90 days of field work on U.S. farms in recent years.

About 1.1 million foreign residents, more than half of them Mexican citizens residing in California, applied for the farm-worker amnesty program. On Aug. 6, 1987, Rivera applied.

Last Dec. 17, the INS admitted Rivera for permanent residence. Under a 1952 law, permanent residence status is enough for a judge to grant American citizenship based on military status, according to court papers filed in Rivera's case by his attorney, Jonathon P. Foerstel of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego.

This time, the INS concluded that all the prerequisites were met, Rabinowitz said after the hearing Monday before Thompson. "It was a good ending," Rabinowitz said. "It just took time."

Bataan Death March Survivor's U.S. Citizenship Revoked

Bureaucratic Error Leaves Filipino 'Homeless'

April 08, 1985 GLENN BURKINS, Times Staff Writer

Gregorio Calantas Rivera was a soldier for the Republic of the Philippines before he served six years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II. But today he is a citizen of neither country.

A native-born Filipino, Rivera renounced his Filipino citizenship in November, when U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson administered an oath that declared Rivera a U.S. citizen based on his service to this country.

However, two months later, Rivera was asked to voluntarily give up his American citizenship because officials of the Immigration and Naturalization Service had made a mistake and allowed him to become a citizen under a law that did not apply to him.

When Rivera refused to relinquish his American citizenship, Thompson ordered it revoked in January.

Today, Rivera will once again go before Thompson to plead his case and ask to be granted citizenship in the country for which he fought and was held as a prisoner of war by Japanese soldiers.

'Man Without a Country'

"He is literally today a man without a country," said Gregory Knoll, director of Legal Aid Society of San Diego, the agency representing Rivera. "He fought for us and survived the Bataan Death March," a 55-mile march to prison camps during which about 10,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war died at the hands of Japanese soldiers.

Although the INS takes full responsibility for the mistake, INS attorney Alan Rabinowitz said, no one has been able to find another special section of law under which to approve Rivera's citizenship. Rivera now has to reapply and be put on a waiting list like other Filipinos--a process that could take years, Rabinowitz said.

"It's a very rare situation," Rabinowitz said. "I have never had to do that before. It was very unfortunate. It was based on an error, our error."

The INS incorrectly processed Rivera's citizenship application under a law that applies to U.S. servicemen from some countries--but not the Philippines.

Vowed to Continue Fight

Rivera, 68, said he is angry at the decision to revoke his U.S. citizenship and vowed to continue the fight.

"We have been brought up and taught the American way of life," he said. "Sometimes I feel naturally frustrated, disappointed and even angry. I will continue to fight for my case in appeal."

Rivera said he came to America as a visitor in August, 1982, and decided to apply for citizenship because he wanted to take advantage of all of the things in America that he believes he is entitled to.

He said he and his wife, Baciencia, live in San Diego with a daughter who married an American in the U.S. Navy. He said he helps support the family by working in grape vineyards in Northern California.

Can't Return to Philippines

The couple also have 12 children in the Philippines, and Rivera said he cannot visit them because he renounced his Philippine citizenship when he took the American oath, and his passport is no longer valid.

Knoll said he believes Rivera's citizenship should be reinstated immediately because the INS made the mistake, not Rivera.

"I think it's outrageous, a shame and embarrassment to this country," he said. "They (INS) tend not to think of the human tragedy their decisions cause."

If Rivera wins the appeal, Knoll said, the Legal Aid Society will request that he be re-administered the oath in the courtroom on the same day.