Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Temporary Protected Status to Filipinos in the U.S.
By Catlea Bobis, Esq.

After the devastation of Typhon Haiyan in the Philippines, there is call to designate the country for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) based on INA Section 244. Due to the massive destruction in the Philippines, it is not safe for Filipinos to go back to the country. TPS would allow Filipinos to remain legally in the U.S. for a temporary period and be issued employment authorization as well as travel authorization.

Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, one of the leaders of immigration reform, and New York City Cardinal Timothy Dolan are supporting the TPS designation. Sen. Schumer said that TPS designation should be given to Filipinos who are living in the U.S. on a legal visa. He also supports giving undocumented Filipinos who are on deportation proceedings TPS designation, provided that the latter do not have any criminal history. Cardinal Dolan calls the TPS designation for Filipinos “classic American hospitality.”

The Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), a Filipino-American organization that deals with issues facing Filipino migrants, wrote a letter to President Obama that goes one step further. The MHC proposes TPS designation to all Filipinos living in America, documented or otherwise.

In the event that the U.S. provides TPS designation to Filipinos, applicants must show the following to qualify: 1) Philippine nationality, or in case of a person without nationality, habitual residence in the Philippines; 2) On-time filing; 3) Continuous physical presence in the U.S. since the effective date of TPS designation; and 4) Continuous residence in the U.S. since TPS designation.

Filipinos who 1) are convicted felons or have committed two or more misdemeanors in the U.S.; 2) are inadmissible immigrants based on INA Section 212(a); 3) are subject to mandatory bars to asylum; and 4) have failed to meet the continuous physical presence and continuous residence in the U.S. and other stated requirements may not qualify for TPS.

Countries like El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria have been provided TPS designation. These TPS designations initially last for 6 to 18 months but may be extended provided that the conditions for TPS continues to exist.

Granting TPS designation to Filipinos is one way to help the country recover. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) contribute significantly to the country’s economy. OFW remittances are the 2nd largest source of foreign reserves in the Philippines. These remittances provide immediate assistance to their families and community for rebuilding after a natural disaster.

Being the world’s largest archipelago and lying along the Western Pacific Basin, the Philippines is no stranger to natural disasters.  It has survived numerous natural calamities with domestic and international relief efforts. Typhoon Haiyan, however, is the world’s strongest tropical storm. Its devastation is unprecedented and the country and its citizens are ill equipped to properly cope with the disaster. Providing immediate relief goods will help stave of hunger and more deaths but to rebuild, long term solutions are necessary.

Providing TPS designation to Filipinos in the U.S. is a way to provide long term assistance other than just donating relief goods. Rebuilding for the affected areas in the Philippines will take years and incredible amounts of resources. With TPS designation, Filipinos will be able to sustain rebuilding for their country with their foreign remittances. It will temporarily provide a place for Filipinos to be productive and contribute to the U.S. economy as well by continued payment of taxes.

There is no final word yet whether this will come to pass. We will update our website with instructions on how to register if the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security approves TPS designation for Filipinos.
Eve Guillergan PLLC 
875 Ave of the Americas 
Suite 2302 
New York, NY 10001 
Tel: (212) 279-9020 

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