Immigration Attorney Breaks Down House Push for Protected Status of Undocumented Immigrants Affected by Typhoon Haiyan

Temporary Protected Status

In the wake of the profound devastation, the Philippines is facing after Typhoon Haiyan, there is growing momentum in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to designate the country with Temporary Protected Status or TPS.

TPS is a type of legal immigration status granted to individuals from countries which have been devastated by an environmental disaster, an ongoing military conflict, a health epidemic, or for other “extraordinary and temporary conditions” within the country. A handful of countries are currently in TPS status, including Haiti, which was designated after its 2010 earthquake, and Syria, which was designated after the recent onset of its ongoing civil war.

TPS would not provide any type of pathway for individuals to enter the U.S. who are not already present, and in that sense, a TPS designation would not directly address the humanitarian crisis currently gripping the nation. Further, as its name suggests, TPS is not a permanent status and does not create a pathway to becoming a legal permanent resident or citizen of the U.S. What a TPS designation would do, however, is to prevent the U.S. from deporting undocumented Filipinos, and allow them to live and work legally in the U.S. This is vitally important to the rebuilding effort in the Philippines because it would increase the flow of “remittances” to the country from Filipinos residing in the U.S.

“Remittance” is a term used to describe the money migrant workers have earned by working abroad and then sent back to their families or communities in their home countries. According to the World Bank, remittances sent home to developing countries “are equivalent to more than three times the size of official development assistance.” Granting the Philippines TPS would increase the number of Filipinos able to work legally in the U.S., which would likewise result in a significant increase of the amount of money sent back to the country during its rebuilding effort.

While no decision has been made, it appears that bipartisan support for a TPS designation may be growing. Last week, a group of nearly 30 Democratic and Republican House members signed a letter addressed to the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security urging him to act. A copy of that letter can be found here.

Filipinos currently in removal proceedings or who are residing in the U.S. without lawful status should closely monitor the progress of this measure, as there will only be a limited window of time in which they will be able to apply, should TPS status be granted. If an announcement is made, it will likely be announced through various media outlets and via the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov. If you have questions about the likelihood of TPS status being granted to the Philippines or general questions about TPS from any other country, contact us immediately for a consultation.