THE US government has gone far and beyond relief efforts to help the Philippines recover and rebuild after being ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda. It has extended visa relief to kababayans in the Philippines and those in the United States with valid immigration papers. However, with the crisis the Philippines now faces in the aftermath of the strongest typhoon that ever made landfall in the face of the earth, even our undocumented kababayans may possibly soon find help in their aspiration to stay and work in the United States legally, even just for a limited time.
Relief for those with valid visas
Balitang America’s Pinoy Panawagan Legal Counsel Atty. Lou Tancinco explained to viewers the visa relief being extended by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to Filipinos, who were stranded in the Philippines in the aftermath of super Typhoon Yolanda:
“Ang bagyong Haiyan or Yolanda ay itinuturing na “Humanitarian Reason” ng USCIS,” Atty. Lou said. “Maaaring manatili ang mga [Filipino green card holders] sa Pilipinas ng lampas anim na buwan dahil seryoso ang humanitarian grounds nila na hindi makabalik agad sa America.”
Atty. Tancinco further explained: “Sa kanilang pagbabalik, kailangan lang ipakita ang mga ebidensya na kasama sila sa nasalanta ng Typhoon Yolanda.”
Explaining other forms of visa relief being given by USCIS, Atty. Lou explained: “Marami pang mga temporary relief o pansamantalang benepisyo ang anuncio ng USCIS. Kasama dito ang pagtulong sa mga green card holders na nastranded sa Pilipinas at nawala ang travel documents o green card. Magbibigay ng tulong ang USCIS para ma-release ang travel documents o green cards.”
For those who are in the United States, Atty. Tancinco outlined the following temporary benefits:
– Expedited approvals of petitions for immediate relatives of green card holders or US citizens;
– Extension of nonimmigrant visas or change of status even when their status already expired;
– Work authorization for those on student visas;
– Expedite for advance parole
– Extension of parole status
Work, Student, Visitors’ Visa relief
US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan are calling on the Department of Homeland Security to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) forkababayans who are in America on a legal visa.
Filipinos who are on temporary visas, such as H1-B work visa, F1 student visa or B1/B2 visitors’ visa that are about to expire will benefit from this.
Schumer, who is the chairman of the immigration subcommittee that has jurisdiction over homeland security, said the TPS aims to provide temporary relief to people from countries devastated by natural disasters. It would allow them to legally stay in the US for a set period of time, while their country recovers from devastation.
“There are many Filipino people in New York who are outstanding citizens. For those who are on visas and can’t go home, hopefully they’re allowed to stay for a period of time, until their homeland is back in shape,” Schumer said in a report filed by Don Tagala for Balitang America.
Cardinal Dolan said it’s the right thing to do. He said, “This makes imminent sense. This is justice. This is fairness. This is classical American hospitality. And let’s do it!”
Help for undocumented Pinoys in the US
Don Tagala further reported that Schumer is also working to include undocumented Filipinos (who are in deportation proceedings) in gaining Temporary Protected Status , if and only if they have no criminal records.
On Tagala’s report on Balitang America, Schumer stressed: “The general policy of the US has been to not deport people unless they have criminal records.”
This new stand of Sen. Schumer supports the call of the Fil-Am organization Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) to President Obama in a letter sent last week.
MHC proposed a way by which the US government can help the Philippines in the recovery and rebuilding process after Yolanda: by granting Temporary Protected Status to more than one million Filipinos, including the undocumented.
MHC Executive Director Atty. Arnedo Valera said: “TPS designation is done by the President through its Attorney General. No need [for] a Congressional legislation. It can be pushed like what is happening now by groups , officials and individuals in the US.”
Valera pointed out that these one million kababayans will benefit from the TPS designation as they will be issued work permits and right to travel. “Remittances and flow of funds from them will not only help their families impacted by Yolanda, but [will] help our country in dire, in a long recovery process .”
Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) have jointly requested President Obama and Acting Secretary Reeds of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to designate the Philippines under the TPS program.
With more than 13,000 immigration lawyers in the United States, the American Immigration Lawyers Association is also supporting this advocacy of the Migrant Heritage Commission.
On my interview with Atty. Valera on Balitang America, he clarified that one does not have to come from the areas directly affected by Typhoon Yolanda to benefit from this visa relief. The United States grants TPS status to the country as whole, the economy of which is affected by the disaster.
The letter sent by MHC to Pres. Obama last week stated: “The massive destruction that ravaged the Philippines is similar if not greater than the destruction that followed in the wake of natural calamities in Haiti, El Salvador and Guatemala which has been designated as TPS countries.”
“Under 8 U.S.C a (1)(B), the Department of Homeland Security may designate any foreign state (or any part of such foreign state) for Temporary Protected Status if there has been an earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, or other environmental disaster in the state resulting in a substantial, but temporary disruption of living conditions in the area affected….. or the Attorney General finds that there exists extraordinary and temporary conditions in the foreign state that prevent aliens who are nationals of the state from returning to the state in safety, unless the Attorney General finds that permitting the aliens to remain temporarily in the United States is contrary to the national interest of the United States.” 8 U.S.C. &1254(b)(1)(B)&(C).”
If you wish to support this advocacy, you may write Pres. Obama, your Senator or Representatives, or the Office of the Attorney General. You may also go to this link (copy and paste on your browser) and sign the petition:https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/grant-temporary-protected-status-tps-filipinos-us-sustain-flow-yolandahaiyan-relief-support/yMLwqL9s
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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos