JUST a few days before Christmas, Filipinos in America (who may have expired visas) are hoping to be permitted to work in the US and travel to the Philippines through the Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
In the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda and with the support of immigrant advocates they hope the Obama administration will designate TPS to qualified Filipinos in America, so that they can help in the rebuilding of the lives of kababayans back home, and have the the chance to visit their families who have been affected by the storm and other calamities that have recently displaced many Filipinos.
The call initiated by Washington DC-based Fil-Am organization Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) has now gained widespread bipartisan support in Congress. New York public officials have likewise filed a resolution, endorsing TPS for Filipinos.
President Benigno S. Aquino III has also formally requested the Obama administration for TPS designation for Pinoys in America.
MHC Co-Executive Director Atty. Arnedo Valera shared with me the official reply of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to their letter, and expressed his appeal to kababayans all over the world, to intensify their support for this advocacy.
“Our demand for TPS designation of the Philippines is far from over. Hindi pa po tapos ang ating laban.
The Migrant Heritage Commission as the initiator of this campaign, which has now evolved into a national movement, is calling all Filipino-American national and local organizations and their network organizations from different nationalities, all over the US to intensify our campaign for TPS for the Philippines.
Finally, the Philippine government has heeded our call after more than a month of lobbying and made a formal request to the US government.
Our collective demand for TPS for the Philippines is a demand for compassion and justice. For it will establish a lifeline of support to families impacted by Yolanda/Haiyan. It will guarantee the flow of dollar remittances to our country in dire by an estimated hundreds of thousands of undocumented Filipinos in the US, and those who lost their immigration status though no fault of their own.
A TPS designation is a win-win situation for all stakeholders and it is an integral part of our relief operations for the typhoon victims — our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. TPS is part of our mission in rebuilding lives, building the future of the Philippines.
Educate organize and mobilize as one immigrant community through your letters/petitions, vigil, rallies, and pickets, and other forms of peaceful protests – and demand TPS for the Philippines now, right now. And do not forget to thank America for the unprecedented support to our country and people, and this must include TPS.
We have to unite and set aside organizational differences and ideologies for the sake of our kababayans and the Philippines. We must stand united for TPS and united we must.”
Here is the official response of the DHS dated December 16, 2013 to the letter of MHC, that initiated call for TPS for Filipinos in America:
Dear Ms. Valera-Jaramillo, Mr. Valera, and Mr. Gatchalian:
Thank you for your November 11, 2013 letter urging Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers to designate the Philippines for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The authority to designate a country for TPS is based upon specific criteria outlined by the United States Congress in Section 244 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 USC. Section 1254a, and is vested in the Secretary of Homeland Security.
The Secretary, after consultation with appropriate agencies, has the discretionary authority to designate a country for TPS where he finds that one of the following conditions exists: (1) an ongoing armed conflict within the foreign state poses a serious threat to the personal safety of the foreign state’s nationals if they are returned there; (2) there has been an earthquake, flood, thought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster resulting in a substantial, but temporary, disruption of the living conditions in the area affected, the foreign state is temporarily unable to handle adequately the return of its nationals, and the foreign state has officially requested TPS designation; or (3) extraordinary and temporary conditions in the foreign state prevent nationals from returning safely, unless the Secretary finds that permitting a country’s nationals to remain in the United States is contrary to the national interest of the United States. See [NA §244(b)( 1 )(A-C).
We in US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are deeply saddened by the effects of the typhoon that struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy. USCIS is the agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for administering the TPS program. USCIS monitors country conditions and evaluates them to determine whether a country could be designated for TPS under the appropriate statutory requirements. DHS and USCIS continue to monitor the situation in thePhilippines and are actively engaged with the Department of State and other agencies.
Additionally, there are options other than TPS that are available for eligible Filipinos who may have been affected by the typhoon and the damage it caused. We have taken steps to ensure that the following relief measures are available upon request: change or extension of status, expedited adjudication of requests for employment authorization where appropriate, and assistance to lawful permanent residents (LPRs) stranded overseas without immigration or travel documentation. USCIS is also proactively identifying and expediting its processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives of US citizens. Filipino LPRs and US citizens with such pending immigrant petitions may also make individual requests for their petitions to be expedited. These relief measures are outlined on the page “USCIS Reminds Filipino Nationals Impacted by Typhoon Haiyan of Available Immigration Relief Measures,” which is posted on our website at www.uscis.gov and may be accessed directly from a scrolling banner on the homepage. USCIS informed stakeholders of this information on November 22, 2013, via electronic communication.
Please be assured that USCIS remains committed to assisting populations in need around the world through its humanitarian programs and continues to look at ways in which we can assist those Filipino nationals affected by the typhoon. I appreciate your interest in the well-being of nationals from the Philippines, and thank you again for your letter. Should you wish to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Alejandro N. Mayorkas
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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos