In the wake of Hurricane Haiyan, which hit the Philippines with devastating force in November, immigration reform advocates and a group of U.S. senators are urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant temporary immigration status to Filipinos who are currently living in the U.S.
Temporary protected status
Temporary protected status is granted to foreign nationals after natural disasters or civil war. If granted in this case, it would allow Filipino students and tourists who have valid visas, as well as those who are living in the U.S. without documentation, to stay and work in the country for a designated period of time.
“It’s meant to help people who are in the U.S. and whose conditions in their home country prevent them from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately,” Claire Nicholson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) told the Los Angeles Times. “It allows them to stay in the U.S. and work until they can safely return home.”
While the Philippines government has yet to formally apply for temporary protected status for its citizens, 20 U.S. senators recently signed a letter asking the DHS to grant that right. And with an estimated 800,000 to 1 million Filipinos currently living in the U.S., according to Aquilina Soriano Versoza, executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, that move would allow them to work and send money home to friends and family who have suffered from the hurricane and its after-effects.
And as Aida Rivera, Pennsylvania chairwoman of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations, told Philly.com, there would be other positive effects as well. Namely, it would allow freedom of travel, even for Filipinos in the U.S. with expired visas, allowing them to go home and bury the dead and help surviving victims without worrying about not being allowed back into the country.