CHICAGO (JGL) – United States Sec. Jeh Johnson of the Department of Homeland Security said on the sidelines during his appearance at the Center for Strategic International Studies forum in Washington, D.C. last Thursday (Oct. 9) that he is “still looking into” the grant of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for the tens of thousands of undocumented Filipinos in the U.S.
Filipino American community leader Eric Lachica said he managed to ask Secretary Johnson the question after Johnson’s hour-long presentation on “Border Security in the 21st Century” before the CSIS moderated by CSIS Senior Adviser, Juan C. Zarate, former Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism and Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes.
Lachica asked Johnson if he had recommended to President Obama the designation of TPS on Philippine nationals as the one-year anniversary of super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) rolls around on Nov. 8. He said his question elicited a reply, “We’re looking into it.”
While it took the U.S. government only one month to designate other countries with TPS after devastating calamities, it is now taking the DHS nearly one year to act on the Philippine TPS request following the devastation wrought by Haiyan (Yolanda). The designation would have helped the Philippines in its re-building effort of the huge devastated areas so the undocumented Filipinos, who could not go home to the Philippines, can remit money to their relatives uprooted by typhoon. A TPS designation will allow undocumented Filipinos to work and stay in the U.S. without fear of being arrested.
Lawyer Rodel Rodis, president of U.S. Pinoys For Good Governance (USP4GG), is mobilizing its members and sympathizers to march to various Philippine consulates, the White House or local Federal buildings in U.S. cities to call “out President Obama to be decisive – not vacillate on TPS for Filipinos!”
Filipino community members are also being urged to ask U.S. Congress members (all up for re-election) and Senators by email or at their local town hall meetings to follow up the TPS-PH request to President Obama by accessing these websites: www.house.gov or www.senate.gov.
200K PINOYS COULD BENEFIT TPS DESIGNATIONS
About 200,000 Filipinos living in the shadows (caregivers, nannies, maids, cooks, etc.) in America will be benefited by the TPS designation for Philippine nationals.
Secretary Johnson did not mention during the open forum if the designation for TPS for Filipinos will be among the executive orders that President Obama is going to approve between the “mid-term elections and the end of this year.”
In a wide-ranging presentation, Secretary Johnson said, over the last 15 years, the number of apprehensions on the southwest border — a major indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally – has declined significantly; it is now less than a third of what it was in the year 2000, and it’s at its lowest level since the 1970s.
He said, the estimated number of undocumented immigrants in this country grew to a high of about 12.2 million in 2006, dropped to around 11.3 million, and has stopped growing for the first time since the 1980s.
“Without a doubt, we had a setback this summer, with the unprecedented number of unaccompanied children and others who crossed a narrow area of our southern border in the Rio Grande Valley, in search of a family member and a better life in this country. We responded aggressively to this spike, and, in fact, now the numbers of unaccompanied children crossing into the Rio Grande Valley are at the lowest they’ve been in almost two years.” he said.
The “seasonal” arrival of unaccompanied children in Rio Grande Valley (53%) peaked off at 10,000 in May this year and dropped to 5,000 in July and has so far totaled to 60,000. They come mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and were driven by poverty and violence in their homelands.
When asked if he is leaning towards granting asylum to “mother-and-child” fleeing domestic violence apprehended in the border, Johnson demurred in his answer, saying his department continues to build more facilities for such “surge” and continues to hold dialogues.
In tracking down U.S.-based foreign fighters sympathetic to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)/ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), Secretary Johnson said his staff is holding outreach sessions with community leaders with big Muslim populations, among them in Columbus, Ohio; Chicago suburb; Dearborn, Michigan; and Boston, Massachusetts.
They are also looking into the “lone wolf” inspired by literature of terrorists.
EBOLA THREAT UNDER CONTROL
As to the Ebola threat, Johnson said it is going to be under control as the U.S. has the “best health care, infrastructure and treatment.”
He said, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs & Border Protection (CBP) last week began new layers of entry screening at five U.S. airports that receive over 94 percent of travelers from the Ebola-affected nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
New York’s JFK International Airport began the new screening last Saturday. In the 12 months ending July 2014, JFK received nearly half of travelers from the three West African nations. The enhanced entry screening at Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O’Hare, and Atlanta international airports will be implemented this week.
He said his department is going to enhance screening in three large airports, giving temperature checks, airlines given proper information, and more aggressive monitoring for in-bound passengers.
If provided budget by Congress, Johnson said his department could embark on “biometric entry and exit” system.
During his presentation, Johnson said from a mere 75 “Mounted Guards” in 1904, the Border Patrol has now 23,000 personnel, 20,833 of them agents fielded across the Southern Border with Mexico with a budget of $3.5-billion.
From a primary fence of 57.9 miles in 2000, the Southern Border now has 352.7 miles. From a secondary fence of 10.3 miles in 2000, it now has 36.3 miles. From 10 miles of vehicle fence, the border now has 299 vehicle fences. And from a total fence of 77 miles, the border now has 700 miles.
With only 17 miles of “all-weather roads” in 2000, the border now has 145.7 miles. Border lighting of 29 miles in 2000 has now been extended to 70 miles. There are now 11,863 censors when there was none in 2000. From 56 aircrafts in 2000, it has now 107 aircrafts. While there was no unmanned aerial system in 2000, today the border has eight systems.
From two vessels in 2000, today it now has 84 vessels. From one mobile surveillance system in 2000, today there are now 40 such systems. The border now has 178 mobile video surveillance systems. With 140 remote video surveillance systems in place in 2000, today it now has 273 such systems. It now has 9,255 night vision goggles and 600 thermal imaging capabilities.
The Southern Border with Mexico covers roughly 2,000 miles from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.