By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
Aug. 14, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – In a last ditch effort to convince the Department of Homeland Security to grant hundreds of thousands of Filipino nationals in the U.S. temporary protected status or TPS, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. hosted a dialogue between Filipino American community leaders and DHS officials at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC Wednesday.
TPS would allow certain Filipino nationals to temporarily stay and work in the U.S. while the Philippines continues to recover from the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda last November.
National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NAFFAA) Chair, J.T. Mallonga said, “Of the 16 million people that estimated to be affected the disaster, three million continue to have difficulties accessing shelter and medical attention.”
DHS Assistant Secretary Alan Bersin said the Philippines’ request for TPS remains under consideration by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Bersin said, “[The dialogue] was very informative, it was effective, it was civil and I think it served the purpose that the Ambassador and I had in mind.”
“I’m sure the U.S. government will give consideration to these views as they make their decision on this request of the Philippine government for TPS for the Philippines,” Cuisia said.
Bersin said the DHS is looking for concrete evidence on the actual number of Filipinos displaced and are still currently affected by the devastation.
“The three basis on which to grant TPS: The first, is it an armed conflict, which doesn’t apply. The second is an environmental disaster, which applies. The third which may or may not apply — is it a temporary condition?” Bersin said.
“But the standard always is the impact of those events are the ability of the country to take back and to absorb its citizens,” he said.
Bersin said there are also legal aspects of the request that still need to be considered before passing TPS.
“We need to hear the arguments in ways that is consistent with the way the law must be interpreted,” Bersin said. “Because if it was simply a matter of humanitarian thing, with a good thing, this wouldn’t be the difficult problem that it is.”
Community leader Loida Nicolas-Lewis said that Atty. Mallonga submitted a paper through the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF) that supports this request and is, in fact, consistent with the law.
But even as the Homeland Security goes into its final stretch of evaluating the Philippines’ request for TPS – it remains uncertain when a final decision would be made.
“So I can’t give you a specific date.” Bersin said. “I know my colleagues in the government understand the urgency of the situation and the necessity for due deliberation.”
But Nicolas-Lewis says that Filipino community leaders remain hopeful that DHS would make a favorable decision soon.
“We all felt that they gave us a good listening ear, and that all of the points that we brought up, maybe have been brought before but they are listening to it again and taking down notes,” said Nicolas-Lewis.
You may contact Don Tagala at firstname.lastname@example.org
not over till it’s over…. good joob! keep pushin, hundreds of thousands of people are hoping…