THE relentless push of the Fil-Am organization Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) and other immigrant advocates for the Obama administration to grant the Philippines the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is gaining more support in Washington.
In a bipartisan move, 20 US Senators have now joined in the call to accord TPS status to the Philippines, in the wake of the massive devastation brought to the Visayas region and effectively, the to entire nation.
“Typhoon Haiyan has wrought unparalleled destruction and tragic loss of life in the Philippines,” said the senators in their letter to the Obama administration.
“Victims of Typhoon Haiyan clearly meet the eligibility requirements for TPS, and we urge you to extend this designation as soon as possible. The United States has demonstrated its commitment to assisting the Philippines with the recovery effort through foreign aid, military assistance and relief supplies, but we must also assist the victims’ families in whatever way possible.”
The letter was signed by Senators Robert Menendez (D–NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John McCain (R-AZ), Harry Reid (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dean Heller (R-NV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
In response to this positive development, MHC Executive Director Atty. Arnedo Valera said: “Thank you for supporting our call for TPS designation!! Of the 4 million Filipinos in the US, an estimated 1 million will benefit from [the] TPS designation. Our country needs Filipinos in the US in helping our brothers and sisters rebuild their lives, their communities and our nation!”
“The unprecedented humanitarian assistance by the United States in their financial and material relief support to the Philippines strengthens the relationship between the US and the Philippines, a strong ally for generations, as Filipino-Americans in the US continue to contribute to the economic and cultural enrichment of the United States. We hope that this will be a new era of a healthy and strong relationship between the United States and the Philippines based on mutual respect and integrity, as both advance the ideals and principles of their respective nations and peoples,” Valera enthused.
This is the full text of their letter addressed to Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Rand Beers:
In light of the tremendous devastation suffered by the Philippines as a result of Typhoon Haiyan, we write to express our deep concern about the impact of this tragedy on Filipinos in the United States. We ask that you consider granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to eligible Filipino nationals within the United States and additional avenues of relief for certain Filipinos with US citizen or lawful permanent resident family members in the US.
As you know, Typhoon Haiyan has wrought unparalleled destruction and tragic loss of life in the Philippines. The US Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated the storm’s sustained winds at 195 miles per hour at landfall, which if confirmed would make Haiyan one of the most powerful storms in recorded history. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced with no shelter or clean water and millions face food shortages.
The United States has granted TPS to other nationals after similarly traumatic events. Following Hurricane Mitch in 1999, the United States granted TPS to Honduran and Nicaraguan nationals; following several earthquakes in Central America in 2001, the United States granted TPS to Salvadorans; and following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the United States granted TPS to Haitians. Victims of Typhoon Haiyan clearly meet the eligibility requirements for TPS, and we urge you to extend this designation as soon as possible. Providing TPS is critical to humanitarian relief efforts as it both protects individuals who would be endangered by returning to their country of origin and it allows the home country more time to recover before accepting returnees.
It is important to note that granting TPS to Filipino nationals will not endanger our security. An alien is ineligible for TPS if he has a criminal background or poses a threat to national security. The decision to deny, withdraw or terminate TPS is in the sole discretion of the government; there is no judicial review of such a determination. Moreover, TPS is not a backdoor to US citizenship. TPS does not make a beneficiary eligible for legal permanent resident status or US citizenship. When the TPS designation of a country is terminated, beneficiaries revert to the same immigration status they maintained before the designation.
We also ask that you consider humanitarian parole and expedited visa processing for Filipinos who have US citizen or lawful permanent resident relatives in the US and approved or pending family petitions, especially Filipinos who have been orphaned, lost relatives in the storm or suffer other serious hardships. We also ask that you consider an automatic extension of visas, in categories where an extension is feasible, for Filipinos currently present in the US. Lastly, we ask that you consider temporarily suspending deportations to the Philippines and utilizing alternatives to detention in appropriate cases.
The United States has demonstrated its commitment to assisting the Philippines with the recovery effort through foreign aid, military assistance and relief supplies, but we must also assist the victims’ families in whatever way possible. Therefore, we respectfully request that you extend TPS to Filipino nationals residing in the United States and support the reunification of US citizens and their Filipino family members.
* * *
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