19 senators pressure White House-Kerry for Philippines’ TPS

IN November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan tore across the Philippines, resulting in at least 6,000 confirmed deaths and the displacement of at least 4 million people. While the Philippine Government continues to struggle to recover from the mass destruction, the Whitehouse has ignored repeated requests from US Congressmen and the Philippine Government itself to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Filipinos already in the United States. Last week, a group of 19 high-profile US Senators sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry turning up the pressure for him to consider a grant of TPS to Filipinos, whose Country and family members back home have suffered as much if not worse than the Central Americans and Haitians granted TPS due to similar natural disasters in the past two decades. The list includes Senators Orrin Hatch, Marco Rubio, John McCain and Barbara Boxer. Now is the time for the Obama Administration to put its money where its mouth is and grant this important, humanitarian benefit to aid in typhoon reparations on both sides of the Pacific.
In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan landed violently on the Philippines, resulting in the confirmed deaths of at least 6000 Filipino citizens and the displacement of at least 4 million more.  In all the Super Storm has negatively impacted more than 12 million people from the height of the typhoon, through its aftermath.  The call for TPS status for Filipinos was almost immediate and included more than 200 Filipino-American organizations across the US, Senator Chuck Schumer and other members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, the Catholic Church and a host of other NGOs.  In response, the Whitehouse authorized certain limited benefits to Filipinos affected by Haiyan, which have done virtually nothing to ameliorate the suffering Haiyan has visited upon Filipinos in the US and back home.
According to the USCIS, a foreign country may be designated for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.  TPS is a grant of a non-deportable temporary status and work authorization (and possibly travel authorization) but not a “green card” or even a grant of lawful nonimmigrant status in the US. USCIS may grant TPS to eligible nationals of designated countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the United States.  Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS.
As cited in the 19 Senators’ recent letter to Secretary Kerry, TPS has historically been implemented to assist both countries and their nationals residing in the US ameliorate hardships caused by natural disasters, civil wars and similar circumstances.  In recent times, El Salvador and Haiti were designated for TPS after being devastated by earthquakes in 2001 and 2010 respectively and Nicaragua and Honduras after they were affected by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.  Although Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. made formal request to designate the Philippines for TPS, this request has apparently been ignored by the Whitehouse. Given President Obama’s claim that he is willing to take on immigration issues, even without Congressional input where necessary, the lack of response is shocking.
TPS is necessary at this time to allow the Filipino-American Community to more effectively assist family members and other victims of Haiyan.  TPS is not a “green card,” nor does it lead to any other permanent status. It is merely a humanitarian gesture that would allow eligible Filipinos currently in the US to support the long-term relief and rehabilitation efforts in the country.
With foreign aid drying up and the clean-up in the Philippines far from complete, now is the time to support the 19 Senators who have implored Secretary Kerry to take action and urge others in power to do the same. Individuals in the US can contribute to these efforts by contacting their US, State and local representatives and urging them to join the 19 Senators and make TPS for the Philippines a reality now.

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Daniel P. Hanlon is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law and a principal of Hanlon Law Group, PC, located at 225 S. Lake Ave., 11th Floor in Pasadena, California; Tel. No. (626) 585-8005. Hanlon Law Group, PC is a “full-service Immigration Law firm.” E-mail: [email protected] and www.hanlonlawgroup.com.

Atty. Daniel Hanlon

Daniel P. Hanlon is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law and a principal of Hanlon Law Group, PC.

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