As nearly 600,000 Filipino nationals in the United States wait for a decision on Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Obama Administration, and Americans in general, should remember the many contributions Filipinos have made to the United States. To the surprise of many, Filipinos have been part of American history for the previous four centuries… even before there was a United States.
Filipino Contributions to United States
In fact, the first Filipinos landed on the North American continent in the 1760s and established a settlement in what is now known as Louisiana. The “Manilamen” adapted well to a life of shrimping. The typhoons in their native Philippines gave Manilamen the experience and knowledge to teach others how to build stilted homes that could endure the hurricanes of coastal Louisiana.
In the early 1920s, thousands of Filipinos were immigrating each year to California and Hawaii to work as migrant labor in the agriculture industry and on sugar plantations. Tagalogs and Ilocanos left their native Philippines with the prospect of building a better life for their families but found mostly just back-breaking work.
During World War II, an estimated 250,000 to 400,000 Filipinos served in the United States military in units including the Philippine Scouts, Philippine Commonwealth Army under U.S. Command, and recognized guerrillas during the Japanese Occupation. Many made the ultimate sacrifice for country and most were never fully compensated. Today, Filipinos comprise the largest foreign-born ethnic group in the U.S. military.
Throughout much of the 20th century, but especially in the late 1960s and 1970s, Filipino nurses immigrated in large numbers to support the growing U.S. healthcare system. That well-educated source of medical professionals continues today.
Let’s face it; Filipino Americans have earned their stripes. They are the second largest Asian American group in the United States with a population of over 3.4 million according to the 2010 U.S. Census. The Philippines has contributed heavily to U.S. prosperity.
Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. The Category 5 storm generated winds of over 185 miles/hour, a tsunami-level storm surge, flash flooding, landslides, and damage to homes, agricultural areas, infrastructure, and services including power, communications, and water supply. Current estimates indicate that the death toll exceeded 6,200 (not including 1,785 missing still missing), nearly 30,000 injured, and over 4 million displaced. The Philippine government is rebuilding under difficult circumstances. By designating the Philippines for TPS, Filipino nationals in the U.S. can apply for benefits that include:
- Are not removable from the United States
- Can obtain an Employment Authorization Document (work permit)
- May be granted travel authorization to visit the Philippines
How TPS Helps Filipinos
While the U.S. is contributing much-needed food and relief aid to the Philippines, the Filipino people also want ways to help themselves. By designating the Philippines for Temporary Protected Status, Filipino nationals in the United States can help sustain the recovery by earning an income here. The areas heavily impacted by the storm in the Philippines offer little opportunity. By staying in the U.S., Filipinos can contribute financially to their own cause. What’s more, the strain put on the Philippine government to receive approximately 600,000 Filipino nationals in the U.S. is greatly reduced. For the Philippines to reabsorb thousands of its nationals during this national emergency would only burden an already strained infrastructure.
Possible TPS Decision This Week
President Obama arrives in the Philippines on April 27 to discuss and develop the U.S.-Philippine alliance, which is the oldest of America’s five treaty alliances in Asia. In a period of waning U.S. world influence, there’s no better time to designate TPS. Approximately 80% of Philippine population believes that the U.S. plays a positive role in the world. It’s time to designate the Philippines for Temporary Protected Status.