Washington, D.C. – Following the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan caused in the Philippines, Senator Mazie K. Hirono joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) and 16 Senate colleagues to call on the Obama Administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Filipino nationals currently residing in the United States and to consider additional avenues of relief for certain Filipinos with family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. TPS is granted to foreign nationals who cannot safely return to their native country.
“Typhoon Haiyan has wrought unparalleled destruction and tragic loss of life in the Philippines,” the Senators wrote. “Victims of Typhoon Haiyan clearly meet the eligibility requirements for TPS, and we urge you to extend this designation as soon as possible. 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.”
The letter was also signed by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John McCain (R-AZ), Harry Reid (D-NV), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY),Chris Coons (D-DE), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dean Heller (R-NV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Currently, the United States grants Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Syria. TPS would only be available to Filipinos already living in the United States who pass a background check and meet related eligibility requirements.
Below is the full letter:
The Honorable Rand Beers
Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20528
Acting Secretary Beers:
In light of the tremendous devastation suffered by the Philippines as a result of Typhoon Haiyan, we write to express our deep concern about the impact of this tragedy on Filipinos in the United States. We ask that you consider granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to eligible Filipino nationals within the United States and additional avenues of relief for certain Filipinos with U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members in the U.S.
As you know, Typhoon Haiyan has wrought unparalleled destruction and tragic loss of life in the Philippines. The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated the storm’s sustained winds at 195 miles per hour at landfall, which if confirmed would make Haiyan one of the most powerful storms in recorded history. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced with no shelter or clean water and millions face food shortages.
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. 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.
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 U.S. citizenship. TPS does not make a beneficiary eligible for legal permanent resident status or U.S. 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 U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relatives in the U.S. 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 U.S. Lastly, we ask that you consider temporarily suspending deportations to the Philippines and utilizing alternatives to detention in appropriate cases.
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 U.S. citizens and their Filipino family members.
Thank you for your consideration.