The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is now actively reviewing the Philippines’ request for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This is the final step in a series of lengthy reviews that have followed Typhoon Haiyan, the super storm that devastated the Philippines in November 2013. DHS has the sole authority to grant TPS to a nation. The matter may be coming to a head as President Obama is scheduled to visit the Philippines in April. President Aquino has vowed to push for Temporary Protected Status during those talks.
The United States may designate a country for Temporary Protected Status due to conditions in the country that may make it dangerous for that country’s nationals to return. Examples include wars and natural disasters. Countries that have received TPS designation include El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Somalia, Sudan and Syria. During the designated temporary period, TPS beneficiaries:
- Are not removable from the United States
- Can obtain an Employment Authorization Document (work permit)
- May be granted travel authorization to visit the Philippines
TPS does not provide a path to citizenship or even permanent residency. And when the TPS designation of a country is terminated, beneficiaries revert to the same immigration status they maintained before the designation. It is purely a temporary humanitarian move. Learn more on the USCIS TPS page.
In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, millions of Filipinos were displaced from regions of the country that were completely devastated from the natural disaster. According to Aquilina Soriano Versoza, Executive Director of the Pilipino Workers Center, Los Angeles, “Typhoon Haiyan displaced more than 4 million people and affected over 14 million, including 5.9 million children.”
In November a bipartisan group of 20 U.S. Senators wrote President Obama a letter expressing their support for a TPS designation for the Philippines. Long a hot topic within the Filipino American community, TPS has been gaining support in the U.S. Congress. The Temporary Protected Status designation does not require congressional approval and is an action left to the Department of Homeland Security.
An initial TPS designation lasts for a period of 6 to 18 months and is typically renewed if the situation continues. While aiding those directly affected by the typhoon by providing a safe haven in the U.S., Philippines TPS also provides relief for the country which is under extraordinary pressure to rebuild infrastructure and receive their nationals safely. Versoza adds, “Many of those Filipino nationals in the U.S. who would benefit have been their families’ first line of support and aid. Providing aid for medicine, food and shelter in the short-term, they will also be sending money back for the long term until recovery is achieved. Temporarily stopping the deportation of Filipinos from America will relieve the Philippines from including them in the millions that they are already struggling to re-settle and allow everyone to focus on the relief and recovery efforts.” By some estimates over 300,000 Filipino nationals in the U.S. with no status could benefit from the TPS designation.
Filipino American community groups and the Relief 2 Recovery national coalition are urging Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to take swift action to grant Philippines TPS to help the millions of Filipinos who continue to suffer from the devastation and provide a key component of the relief necessary to recover.