More than 100 days have passed since Typhoon Haiyan ravaged many parts of the Philippines and the country is still suffering from the devastation. The scale of the destruction prompted members of both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives to submit requests to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to offer temporary protected status (TPS) to Filipino nationals in the U.S.
This was followed by a letter-petition joined by over 140 organizations appealing to the DHS to issue TPS for Filipinos. On December 16, 2013, the Philippine government formally requested the Obama administration for TPS designation.
The USCIS in its letter to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) last December stated that they would “continue to monitor the situation in the Philippines and are actively engaged with the Department of State and other agencies.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate submitted its second letter early this February reiterating its request to designate the Philippines for TPS. Efforts have also been made by over 200 Filipino-American organizations across the US including the Catholic Church urging the U.S. government to grant TPS to Filipinos.
Temporary Protected Status is a humanitarian form of relief granted by the United States government to noncitizens who are in the U.S. and who are temporarily unable to return to their countries safely due to conditions in the country such as armed conflict, violence, and environmental disasters. TPS is a “blanket form of relief” which provides a safe haven for aliens who are not eligible for asylum or refugee status.
A TPS status grants eligible applicants temporary authorization to remain and work in the U.S. for a set period of time. It may be extended if the conditions in the country do not change. TPS does not lead to permanent residence.
The decision to grant TPS lies with the executive branch of the federal government. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Department of State, has the authority to designate a foreign country for TPS. Congress does not have to vote for the designation under this process.
Congress, however, may also issue TPS through legislation. When the TPS statute was enacted in 1990, it also granted TPS to nationals of El Salvador in the U.S. Last November, H.R. 3602, the Filipino Temporary Protected Status Act of 2013 was introduced in the 113th Congress. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security by the House Judiciary in January 2014.
The bill, sponsored by Congressman Al Green of Texas, would provide 18-month temporary protected status to Filipino nationals. Under the bill, an applicant must satisfy the following: (1) continuous physical presence in the U.S. since November 8, 2013; (2) admissibility as an immigrant and; (3) timely registration for TPS with DHS.
Countries currently designated for TPS are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria. There are over 300,000 TPS beneficiaries in the U.S. Data from the USCIS showed that El Salvador has the highest number of nationals currently benefitting from temporary protected status (212,000), followed by Honduras (64,000) and Haiti (60,000). Sudan has the least number with only 300 nationals registered for TPS.
Honduras and Nicaragua were placed under TPS in 1999 after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. El Salvador was granted TPS designation after earthquakes in 2001 and the most recent, Haiti, after the earthquake in 2010. These countries were granted temporary protected status after a natural disaster.
Similarly, the destruction in the Philippines brought on by Typhoon Haiyan, which has killed more than 6,000, displaced 4 million and affected in total 16 million people, calls for TPS designation. It will assist thousands of Filipinos while rehabilitation is underway and will without doubt serve its humanitarian purpose.