TPS for the Philippines NOW! is a campaign led by grassroots organizations, church leaders, lawyers and individuals advocating for Temporary Protected Status for the Philippines, after the destruction brought abut by Super Storm Haiyan in November 2013.
These are stories related to that campaign.
A Primer on TPS for the Philippines for Advocates
By Cristina A. Godinez, Esq.*
For a complete, printable, PDF version, click this link: FAQs About TPS for the Philippines With Foot Notes
What is TPS?
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a blanket humanitarian relief granted to migrants in the U.S. who cannot return to their home country due to the following temporary conditions:
- Ongoing armed conflict posing serious threat to personal safety (such as civil war);
- Environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic; or
- Other extraordinary and temporary conditions preventing migrants from returning.
What are the benefits of being granted TPS?
During the designated TPS period (typically granted for an initial period of between six (6) to 18 months), beneficiaries found eligible:
- Are not deportable
- May obtain work authorization
- May obtain travel authorization
Who will benefit from the TPS designation of the Philippines?
TPS designation will potentially benefit nearly 600,000 Filipinos in the U.S. This includes over 300,000 Filipino non-immigrants (visitors, students or temporary workers) and about 270,000 undocumented Filipinos in the U.S.
Is TPS the same as amnesty for undocumented migrants?
No. TPS is a temporary benefit that does not lead to permanent legal resident (or green card) status nor does it give any other immigration status.
However, a TPS beneficiary may apply for other non-immigrant status, permanent residency, or any other immigration benefit s/he may be eligible for separately.
Although typically granted for 18 months only, the DHS may extend a foreign country’s TPS designation for as long as the conditions that led to the TPS designation persist.
Honduras was first granted TPS designation in 1999 and is now on its eleventh extension, while El Salvador was designated for TPS in March 2001 and is now on its ninth extension.
Can Filipinos apply for TPS?
Not yet. Although Typhoon Haiyan clearly created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, Filipinos do not qualify because the Philippines has yet to be been designated for TPS by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
How can the Philippines obtain TPS designation for its nationals in the U.S.?
Under the law, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may grant TPS designation for the Philippines based on:
- A finding that an environmental disaster resulted in a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in the area affected;
- The Philippines is temporarily unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately; and
- The Philippines has officially requested TPS designation.
The official request for TPS designation was conveyed on December 13, 2013 by Philippine Ambassador Jose Cuisia to the U.S. State Department.
During his visit in the ravaged city of Tacloban three days later, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed the U.S. government’s commitment to help however long it takes.
Why should the DHS designate the Philippines for TPS?
On November 8, 2013, the strongest typhoon on record hit the Philippines, leaving over 6,000 dead, more than 28,000 injured and more than 1,700 still missing. Roughly 14 million people were left homeless and displaced. It is the strongest storm recorded at landfall.
The economic cost will be the largest ever in terms of Philippine typhoon losses. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that “(t)wo months after the storm, the scale and spread of humanitarian needs is still daunting.”
The Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the total damage and loss from Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) has been initially estimated at PhP571 billion or $13 billion.
TPS designation is needed to provide a safe haven for many Filipinos who cannot return to the Philippines because of the national crisis that followed the massive devastation brought by the typhoon.
What is the legal basis for the TPS designation of the Philippines?
Granting the Philippines TPS designation follows the established principle that “no person, regardless of status or conduct, may be returned in any manner whatsoever to a country where his or her life or integrity would be at risk.” The human right of migrants to a safe haven is implicitly recognized in international law and in U.S. immigration law.
How can Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts benefit from the TPS designation of the Philippines?
According to a World Bank report, almost 10 percent of the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product comes from remittances. In 2012, Filipinos all around the world sent home a new high of $23.8 billion. Of this amount, more than 40 percent or $9.5 billion comes from Filipinos in the United States.
Remittances from U.S.-based Filipinos already constitute more than 70 percent of the funds needed to cover the $13 billion damage brought about by Typhoon Haiyan.
By granting TPS designation to the Philippines, the Filipino American community can continue boosting the recovery effort in the Philippines.
Also, granting the TPS designation would allow Filipino breadwinners in the United States to travel and be with families even for a brief period and temporarily, in these times of great need.
What countries are under TPS designation?
Countries with TPS designation are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria.
El Salvador has the highest number of TPS beneficiaries with 217,000. This is followed by Honduras with 66,000 then Haiti with 48,000. Roughly 3,000 were estimated to benefit from Syria’s recent TPS designation.
Are there other countries awaiting TPS designation?
Guatemala has requested TPS designation in June 2010 in light of the crisis brought by a volcanic eruption followed by a major storm. The Guatemalan government had formally requested the U.S. for TPS designation. Then-Senator John Kerry issued a letter in July 2010 in support of TPS designation for Guatemala.
Pakistan also sought TPS designation in January 2011 after floods in July 2010 killed almost 2,000 people and caused extensive damage. It is not clear whether a formal request was made by the Pakistani government but the Pakistani community in the U.S. had the support of Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) who filed a bill in support of Pakistan’s TPS designation.
When will the DHS designate the Philippines for TPS?
There is no specific timeline for the DHS to decide, but national and local government officials have already urged the immediate designation of the Philippines for TPS. These supporters include 20 U.S. senators from both sides of the aisle. H.R. No. 3602 was also introduced in the House of Representatives seeking TPS designation for the Philippines.
In New York, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Cardinal Timothy Dolan have jointly called for the immediate grant of TPS status for Filipinos, while at the New York City Council, Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), chairman of the Committee on Immigration, and Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D-Brooklyn) also expressed support. The New York City Council has passed a resolution calling upon the DHS to designate the Philippines for TPS.
* Cristina A. Godinez is an immigration attorney who serves as the ad hoc chair of the Stand Up for Migrants Project of the Migrant Center at the St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City.