On November 8, 2013, the Philippines experienced a traumatic typhoon that decimated many areas and displaced a large segment of the nation’s population. Typhoon experts are projecting that this typhoon, named Typhoon Haiyan, was one of the biggest and most powerful of its kind to date. Typhoon Haiyan displaced more than 3 million Filipinos from their homes, and left these people without access to food, water, medical attention, shelter, and other critical supplies. In addition to the millions who lost their homes, an estimated 5,000 Filipinos are believed to have died in the typhoon and the chaos that resulted afterward, with an additional 23,500 who are injured and more than 1,600 who are still reported missing.
Congress’s Response to Typhoon Haiyan
Due to the incredible and widespread hardship suffered by millions of Filipinos on account of Typhoon Haiyan, members of Congress have requested that the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Rand Beers designate Filipinos who are currently in the United States as eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
The DHS Secretary has the authority to designate a country’s nationals as eligible for TPS if the country is experiencing extraordinary conditions that, for the foreseeable future, prevent the country’s nationals from returning to the country safely. These types of conditions include armed conflicts (i.e., coups or civil wars) or environmental catastrophes (i.e., Typhoon Haiyan or an earthquake).
In the Congressmen’s letter to the DHS Secretary, the members highlight to the Secretary that the U.S. has previously approved TPS eligibility for other countries that were suffering from the terrible impact of an environmental disaster. The Congress members specifically pointed to Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Haiti, as the U.S. granted TPS to these countries’ nationals after the countries were struck by intense hurricanes and severe earthquakes. The members argued that granting TPS to the Philippines would be an invaluable contribution to humanitarian relief efforts for affected nationals.
Benefits of TPS
When the DHS Secretary designates a country for TPS, the country’s citizens will not be deported from the United States, are eligible to apply for work and travel authorization, and will not be arrested by police authorities solely on the basis of their immigration status. Although these are great benefits, it is important to note that TPS designation does not provide a pathway to permanent residence or citizenship; it is merely a temporary measure of relief accorded to eligible foreign nationals.
Currently, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti, Somalia, Honduras, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria are designated for TPS.
To qualify, the applicant must be a national of a TPS-eligible country, file the TPS application during the first registration or subsequent re-registration period (unless they qualify for delayed filing due to a good cause), and the national must have been present in the U.S. continuously since the country received TPS designation. If the applicant has felony or other criminal convictions, the TPS application may be denied.
As highlighted, TPS eligibility offers the important and often life-saving benefits of authorized status in the U.S., work authorization, and travel authorization. Although TPS itself is temporary and does not lead to permanent residence, individuals who would otherwise be displaced are able to remain in the U.S. while their home country responds to the extraordinary circumstances. We applaud the Congress’s efforts to lobby for TPS designated for the Filipinos. Continue to check back with our blog regularly to follow this and all other immigration developments.