Testimony: TPS for the Philippines

Testimony by Attorney Melissa Chua before the New York City Council Committee on Immigration.

December 17, 2013

The New York Legal Assistance Group commends Council Member Eugene and Council Member Dromm for this measure and joins with them in calling for Temporary Protected Status designation for the Philippines.

As we all know, on November 8, Typhoon Haiyan, the most powerful tropical storm ever recorded, struck the Philippines, causing unprecedented destruction and loss of life to a country that had, just weeks prior, been hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. As one of the largest providers of free immigration legal services in the country, the New York Legal Assistance Group has seen firsthand the plight of foreign nationals living in the United States when disaster strikes their home countries. We know from our experience working with hundreds of Haitian nationals after the 2010 earthquake the enormous benefits that Temporary Protected Status, also known as TPS, can have. Indeed, due to the widespread devastation in the Philippines, days after Typhoon Haiyan, NYLAG drafted a letter, co-signed by Council Member Eugene, Filipino-American organizations and our other partners, including the New York Immigration Coalition, calling for the United States to grant TPS to Filipino nationals as a way to strengthen the Philippine economy in its time of need, and allow Filipino nationals living in the United States to contribute to rebuilding their country.

The United States has a long history of providing temporary, humanitarian refuge to countries affected by natural disasters in the form of TPS. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security can designate a country for TPS when certain conditions exist, such as a natural disaster, which temporarily prevent that country’s nationals from safely returning home. Once an individual receives TPS, they are not removable from the United States, can obtain work authorization, and may be granted travel authorization.

In the wake of this immense tragedy, the benefits of TPS could be enormous for Filipino nationals living in the United States and the Philippines. For Filipino nationals in the United States, TPS would offer temporary protection from being returned to the Philippines. Moreover, the work authorization associated with TPS could allow Filipinos to send even greater sums of relief and recovery money back to their families in the Philippines. In this sense, TPS would not only protect individuals who would endangered by returning home, but would also empower Filipino nationals temporarily living in the United States to aid in the recovery of their own homeland.  Indeed yesterday, in a statement recognizing the humanitarian and economic need for TPS, the Philippine government formally asked the Department of Homeland Security to designate their country for TPS.  Now the decision whether to designate the Philippines for TPS rests with the Department of Homeland Security.

The devastation and the loss of life in the Philippines are monumental. In the wake of this immense tragedy, the benefits of TPS for the Philippines cannot be understated. TPS would protect individuals who would be endangered by returning home, and empower Filipino nationals temporarily living in the United States to aid in the recovery of their homeland.  For these reasons, the New York Legal Assistance Group urges the Department of Homeland Security to grant TPS to the Philippines, and we stand ready to provide free legal assistance to the Filipino community if and when TPS is granted.

Melissa Lim Chua, Supervising Attorney, Immigrant Protection Unit, New York Legal Assistance Group