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.
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Dean Heller (R-NV) have filed an amendment to S.1197, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This legislation will help all eligible Filipino veterans receive the compensation they are entitled to for their service to the United States during World War II.
“Mahalo to Senator Heller for partnering with me to help ensure all Filipino World War II veterans who bravely served alongside Americans in the critical South West Pacific Theatre receive the compensation they have earned. Given the advanced age of many of these Filipino veterans, we simply cannot wait any longer to establish a process that fairly recognizes veterans who deserve benefits,” said Hirono.
“This amendment is the least we can do for our nation’s brave Filipino veterans. Every effort must be made to ensure that those individuals who valiantly served alongside U.S. troops are properly recognized for their contributions to our nation. I am proud to work across party lines with Senator Hirono to ensure these Filipino veterans are treated with dignity and respect,” said Senator Heller.
After World War II, the U.S. Army created the Approved Revised Reconstructed Guerilla Roster of 1948, also known as the “Missouri List,” based on individuals who came forward after the war to receive healthcare. This list has been used by the military to verify those who served alongside U.S. troops in the Philippines. It is possible that some Filipinos who fought were not added to this list and could be improperly denied benefits.
The Filipino Veterans Promise Amendment would direct the Department of Defense (DOD), in consultation with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to establish a process for determining whether certain individuals meet the necessary service requirements to receive veterans’ benefits and subsequently be verified as a Veteran by the United States Army.
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono, Bill Nelson (D-FL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prevent American taxpayers from having to foot the bill as a result of settlement negotiations between the U.S. Department of Justice and JPMorgan Chase over the bank’s mortgage lending practices in the lead up to the financial crisis. While the details of the settlement are not final, numerous media reports have indicated that absent clear guidelines from the Justice Department, JPMorgan could potentially write off nearly a third of the settlement’s costs.
“Too many American families and communities are still fighting to recover from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” Hirono said. “It’s deplorable that banks like JPMorgan may be able to deduct more than a quarter of penalties on what is meant to be relief to those affected, and I urge Attorney General Holder to stand firm and fight for taxpayers and middle class families.”
Under a tentative settlement between JPMorgan and the Justice Department, the bank would pay $13 billion over charges that it engaged in questionable practices leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. However, reports suggest that JPMorgan may be able to claim as much as $4 billion, or roughly 30 percent, of the settlement as a tax deduction—meaning taxpayers would be subsidizing the bank’s penalties at a time when federal priorities like education, clean energy, infrastructure and other job creating investments are facing budget cuts. In addition, Hirono and her colleagues urged Holder to expand monitoring to ensure that affected homeowners see the full benefit of the funds that are reportedly being directed to consumer relief.
The letter, signed by Hirono and her colleagues reads in part, “Allowing major corporations to write off penalties for breaking the law and harming the public is impossible to justify to taxpayers. Fines and penalties are intended not just to compensate the public, but also to serve as deterrents to others who might break the law in the future. We urge the Department of Justice to ensure the final settlement is clear about the tax treatment of the entire settlement amount and explicitly prohibits the tax deductibility of such payments.”
HONOLULU – Gov. Neil Abercrombie is in Washington, D.C. to meet with the Hawaii Congressional Delegation and former colleagues. Today, he spoke with White House officials and met with Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono. He plans to meet with Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard tomorrow, as well as with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Before departing for our nation’s capital, the Governor spoke with all four mayors regarding their collective concerns about federally funded programs and employee positions throughout the state. The Governor’s intent is to form a coordinated effort and ensure that Hawaii is well protected from the residual effects of the shutdown.
Gov. Abercrombie stated:
“I am pleased that Congress has finally reached an agreement that will allow the federal government to fully operate again. Like other states and counties, Hawaii was placed in a fiscally vulnerable position where benefits, programs and jobs were on the line. We continue to monitor the situation hour by hour and day by day.
“Fortunately, the State of Hawaii has seen signs of our economy rebounding and, due to prudent management by this administration, we were equipped to weather the three weeks of the government shutdown. However, we do not want these circumstances to arise again, putting our progress in jeopardy. Since this ‘new deal’ will only be in place for a short term, we must remain vigilant regarding our finances. I will continue to voice our concerns on behalf of the state and the counties, and work with our congressional delegation.”
With the federal government shutdown now in its third week, Gov. Neil Abercrombie will depart for Washington, D.C., today to work with Hawaii’s Congressional Delegation and former colleagues on the Hill on the continuation of federally funded services and programs.
Currently, Gov. Abercrombie’s schedule includes meetings with Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono on Wednesday, followed by meetings with Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard on Thursday.
Gov. Abercrombie has spoken with each of the four mayors regarding concerns about federally funded programs and employee positions in their respective counties, and he will include their input in discussions in Washington. The intention is to form a coordinated effort by county, state and federal levels of government to address the issues as they arise.
This trip is an addition to the Governor’s personal travel to the East Coast that had been previously arranged.
Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui will be Acting Governor during the Governor’s travel time. Gov. Abercrombie is expected to return to the Islands on Oct. 20.
Washington, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono announced today the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will lift a ban on Hawaii Sharwil avocado shipments to the mainland. Earlier this year, Hirono wrote and sent a letter – signed by each member of Hawaii’s congressional delegation – urging the USDA to lift its 1992 ban, arguing that numerous scientific studies have found that the avocados prove to be a very poor host for the fruit flies USDA is trying to prevent from coming to the mainland. Since sending the letter, Hirono has worked closely behind the scenes with avocado farmers, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the USDA to lobby for the ruling.
“This USDA ruling will directly benefit Hawaii farmers and our economy,” said Hirono. “The new rule — advocated by Hawaii’s congressional delegation since 1992 — will finally allow our local producers to sell avocados to the mainland, opening up a number of new markets for these delicious, Hawaii-grown products. Advancing local food has long been a cornerstone of my push to make our state and economy more sustainable, and I’m very appreciative the USDA has made this critical ruling.”
Text of Hirono’s letter can be found below.
The 1992 discovery of invasive oriental fruit fly larvae in an avocado packing house in Hawaii led the USDA to institute a shipping ban on Hawaii’s Sharwil avocados unless shipments underwent extreme measures that destroyed the quality of the product. Since the ban went into effect, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Hawaii avocado growers and the Congressional delegation have sought to repeal the ban, setting up multiple safeguards to prevent the spread of the fruit flies. In response to the request of the late Senator Inouye, the USDA convened two science panels in 2004 and 2005 bringing together the best science and scientists to reexamine shipping protocols. These studies clearly demonstrated Hawaii Sharwil avocados were poor hosts for oriental fruit flies and therefore did not deserve the extreme shipping protocols enforced by the USDA.
Known for its unique, buttery taste, Sharwil avocados are produced on approximately 280 Hawaii farms, primarily on Hawaii Island. Prior to the shipping ban, Hawaii’s Sharwil avocados were expected to effectively compete with imported foreign avocados, due to the fruit’s quality and early growing season. It is expected Hawaii avocado farmers will begin shipping their product to the mainland later this fall.
You can read USDA’s ruling here: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/09/12/2013-22205/interstate-movement-of-sharwil-avocados-from-hawaii.
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