19 US senators seek temporary protected status for Pinoys

Joseph Lariosa - The Philippine Star

CHICAGO – US Sen. Dick Durbin and 18 other senators on Thursday sent a letter to acting US Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Filipinos living in the US in light of the tremendous devastation of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

In the letter, the senators said the US has granted TPS for other nations following similar natural disasters.

“Providing TPS is critical to humanitarian relief efforts as it both protects individuals who would be endangered by returning to their country of origin and it allows the home country more time to recover before accepting returnees,” read the letter.

“The United States has demonstrated its commitment to assisting the Philippines with the recovery effort through foreign aid, military assistance and relief supplies, but we must also assist the victims’ families in whatever way possible.

“Therefore, we respectfully request that you extend TPS to Filipino nationals residing in the United States and support the reunification of US citizens and their Filipino family members.”

The letter continued: “We ask that you consider granting Temporary Protected Status to eligible Filipino nationals within the United States and additional avenues of relief for certain Filipinos with US citizen or lawful permanent resident family members in the US.

“The United States has granted TPS to other nationals after similarly traumatic events. Following Hurricane Mitch in 1999, the United States granted TPS to Honduran and Nicaraguan nationals; following several earthquakes in Central America in 2001, the United States granted TPS to Salvadorans; and following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the United States granted TPS to Haitians. Victims of Typhoon Haiyan clearly meet the eligibility requirements for TPS, and we urge you to extend this designation as soon as possible.

No danger to security

“It is important to note that granting TPS to Filipino nationals will not endanger our security. An alien is ineligible for TPS if he has a criminal background or poses a threat to national security. The decision to deny, withdraw or terminate TPS is in the sole discretion of the government; there is no judicial review of such a determination. Moreover, TPS is not a backdoor to US citizenship. TPS does not make a beneficiary eligible for legal permanent resident status or US citizenship. When the TPS designation of a country is terminated, beneficiaries revert to the same immigration status they maintained before the designation.

“We also ask that you consider humanitarian parole and expedited visa processing for Filipinos who have US citizen or lawful permanent resident relatives in the US and approved or pending family petitions, especially Filipinos who have been orphaned, lost relatives in the storm or suffer other serious hardships. We also ask that you consider an automatic extension of visas, in categories where an extension is feasible, for Filipinos currently present in the US. Lastly, we ask that you consider temporarily suspending deportations to the Philippines and utilizing alternatives to detention in appropriate cases.

Also signing the letter were Senators Robert Menendez, Mazie Hirono, Mark Kirk, Dean Heller, Cory Booker, Marco Rubio, Chris Coons, Lisa Murkowski, Brian Schatz, John McCain, Benjamin Cardin, Orrin Hatch, Mary Landrieu, Harry Reid, Kirsten Gillibrand, Edward Markey, Patrick Leahy and Tim Kaine.

The US has committed more than $37 million in aid for the relief efforts for victims of Yolanda. 

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Department of Defense have been on the ground in typhoon-devastated areas helping provide shelter, safe drinking water and food.

Last week, Durbin spoke with USAID administrator Raj Shah about the relief effort.

He will meet this week with Philippine  Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia Jr.


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