CHICAGO (FAXXNA/jGLi) – Director Suzanne Sheldon of the Office of International Migration of the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. assured on Jan. 27, 2014 the Los Angeles, California-based Filipino American Service Group, Inc. (FAGSI) and its nine collaborative partners that “(w)e are actively engaged” in considering the grant of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to Philippine nationals living in the United States following the devastation brought by super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Philippines last year.
In a letter to Susan E. Dilkes, Executive Director of FAGSI, on behalf of Assistant Secretary Anne C. Richard for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the U.S. State Department, Director Sheldon said the Philippine embassy in Washington officially requested on Dec. 13, 2013 for the grant of TPS for Philippine nationals.
Sheldon said, “We are actively engaged in consideration of that request, working closely with our embassy in Manila and colleagues in other offices at the Department of State to consult with Department of Homeland Security in its determination of whether TPS is appropriate under the circumstances that pertain in the Philippines.”
Sheldon told Dilkes that aside from the assistance the U.S. extended to the victims of Yolanda on the ground, the U.S. also recognizes “that a natural disaster can affect an individual’s ability to establish or maintain lawful immigration status in the United States.” This is thru the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has “instituted a number of temporary immigration relief measures for eligible Filipino nationals in the U.S., who have been affected by the typhoon.”
TPS DOES NOT LEAD TO PERMANENT RESIDENT STATUS
She is referring to the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov that says TPS provides “temporary relief from removal to aliens in the U.S., who are temporarily unable to return to their country due to ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.”
Director Sheldon, however, clarified that “TPS beneficiaries may remain in the U.S. and obtain work authorization, but TPS does not lead to lawful permanent resident status.”
Section 244 of the Immigration and National Act gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to make TPS designations in consultation with the State Department and other government agencies, and it outlines specific criteria for doing so, Sheldon said.
With respect to natural disasters, Sec. 244 authorizes a TPS designation when: “(i) there has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster in the state resulting in a substantial, but temporary, disruption of living conditions in the area affected, (ii) the foreign state is unable, temporarily, to handle adequately the return to the state of aliens who are nationals of the state, and (iii) the foreign state officially has requested designation under this subparagraph.”
Section 244 also authorizes a TPS designation when the Secretary of Homeland Security “finds that there exist extraordinary and temporary conditions in the foreign state that prevent aliens, who are nationals of the state, from returning to the state in safety, unless the Secretary finds that permitting the aliens to remain temporarily in the United States is contrary to the national interest of the United States.”
FIL AM LEADERS PAID US STATE DEPARTMENT A COURTESY CALL
On January 30, a group of Filipino American community leaders paid a courtesy call on David Arulanantham, Desk Officer of the Philippine Desk of the U.S. State Department in Washington, to press the U.S. State Department to grant TPS to Philippine nationals in the U.S. Also present in the call led by Atty. Loida N. Lewis were Director David Foran of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and Director Foran’s assistant, Jim Bean.
Accompanying Ms. Lewis in that call were Attorneys Arnedo Valera of the Fairfax, Virginia-based Migrant Heritage Commission and JT Mallonga of the New York city-based Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF); Mr. Jon Melegrito, communications officer of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) headed by Ed Navarra; Ms. Marie Aunio of FALDEF; Dr. Angie Cruz of NAFFAA; Mr. Apollo Inserto of US Medicare Philippines; Mesdames Lorna Imperial Seidel of Philippine Nurses Association; and Grace Valera-Jaramillo, Co-Executive Director, Migrant Heritage Commission; and Messrs. Edwin R. Josue and Jerry Sibal, both of Noli Me Tangere Opera.
Director Sheldon’s letter to Dilkes is in response to a letter Dilkes and nine other collaborative partners sent to U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary Anne C. Richard for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. FAGSI and nine other collaborative partners have more than 10,000 members. They urged Secretary Kerry to “convey a positive recommendation to the Department of Homeland Security” to designate TPS to Philippine nationals living in the U.S.
The other signatories to the letter include Joveno “Bing de la Vega of Philippine Disaster Relief Organization (PeDRO); Archerie Calunod of First Community United Presbyterian Church; Noel S. V. Omega of Filipino American Chamber of Commerce LA; Edith Sajor of Lucena Association of Southern CA; Zeny Sabocor of United Bicolandia Los Angeles; Techie T. Quiatchon of Calamba Association of So. Cal.; Chito Mandap of Jose P. Rizal Monument Movement, United Pampanga Inc.; Josie Estaris de Jesus of Philippine Nurses Association and Antero Pagunsan of Antique Circle USA.
The same signatories also wrote earlier Philippine President Aquino, requesting him to urge President Barack Obama to issue TPS for Filipino nationals in the U.S. They also wrote earlier Senate President Franklin M. Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. to urge President Aquino to ask President Obama to issue TPS for Philippine nationals in the U.S.
Director Dilkes said they also wrote a separate letter to U.S. Secretary John F. Kerry but they are still waiting for a response.
FIL AM AUDIENCE AT THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT FOR TPS: U.S State Department Philippine Desk Officer David Arulanantham (fifth from right) joins an 11-person delegation of Filipino American leaders headed by Atty. Loida Nicolas Lewis (fourth from left, back row), which pressed the U.S. State Department to support their request to grant a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to thousands of undocumented Filipino immigrants in the United States so they could not be deported and instead be allowed to work and to travel outside the U.S. and return to the U.S. Atty. JT Mallonga (third from left) of Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF) and Atty. Arnedo Valera (in Barong Filipino), Director of Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC). Others in photo from left are Jon Melegrito of National Federation of American Associations (NaFFAA); Maria Aunio (behind Melegrito) of FALDEF; Dr. Angie Cruz of NaFFAA; Co-Director Grace-Valera-Jaramillo of MHC, holding a white T-shirt; David Foran also of the U.S. State Department; Apollo Inserto of US Medicare-Philippines; Lorna Imperial Seidel of Philippine Nurses Association; Edwin R. Josue of Noli Me Tangere Opera and Jim Bean of the U.S. State Department. (FAXXNA/jGLi Photo courtesy of Jerry Sibal of Noli Me Tangere-Opera)