WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today assured leaders of the Filipino-American Community in the United States that their clamor for the Philippines to be placed under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is being heard and that their views will be taken into consideration when it makes its final decision.
In a dialogue at the Philippine Embassy that was arranged by Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for International Affairs Alan Bersin told Filipino-American Community leaders the DHS is still in the process of evaluating Manila’s request to place the Philippines under TPS in the wake of the massive devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan last year.
“This is a matter that is under consideration by Secretary Jeh Johnson. There are no specific deadlines but this does require the kind of outreach, time and consideration that it is being given,” Assistant Secretary Bersin told the Embassy’s Radyo Tambuli after the meeting.
“I know my colleagues in the government understand the urgency of the situation and the necessity for due deliberation,” said Assistant Secretary Bersin, also the Department’s Chief Diplomatic Officer, when asked if a decision on the Philippine request was forthcoming.
“We are delighted and appreciative that Ambassador Cuisia convened the Filipino-American Community so that their views could be well heard and taken into account,” Assistant Secretary Bersin said.
Another DHS official who attended the meeting, Director Leon Rodriguez of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, also said the views expressed by the Filipino-American Community leaders would be helpful in their decision on the Philippine request for TPS.
Ambassador Cuisia said the dialogue at the Embassy’s Romulo Hall allowed leaders of the Filipino-American Community and DHS to have a very useful exchange of views.
“It was reassuring to know that the US Government will give due consideration to the views of the Filipino-American Community when it makes its decision on our request for TPS,” Ambassador Cuisia added.
Leaders of the Filipino-American Community who met Assistant Secretary Bersin, Director Rodriguez and the other DHS officials said they are thankful for the dialogue.
“We are really very grateful that they took the time to be with us to listen to the humanitarian, legal, economic and geopolitical arguments for the granting of TPS,” said Loida Nicolas-Lewis, Chair of the US Pinoys for Good Government. “We are hoping that something will come out of our exchange of views.”
Also present in the dialogue were officials of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NAFFAA) led by J.T. Mallonga (New York), John Melegrito and Bing Branigin (Washington, D.C.); and Cornelio Natividad and Evelyn Natividad (Illinois); Rodel Rodis, President of the US Pinoys for Good Government (San Francisco) and Eric Lachica (Maryland); Father Patrick Longalong, Vice President of the National Association of Filipino Priests (New York); Grace Valera Jaramillo and Jessie Gatchalian, Co-Executive Directors of the Migrant Heritage Commission (Virginia); and Aquilina Versoza, Executive Director of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (Los Angeles). They all underscored the urgent need for the granting of the TPS request.
During the discussions, Mallonga, the newly elected chair of NAFFAA, said a TPS designation for the Philippines would allow the Haiyan-affected areas to immediately bounce back from the devastation.
“The more than 200,000 Filipinos who would benefit from TPS will help the Philippines go a long way,” said Mallonga. He cited a World Bank study that showed that dollar remittances to countries earlier placed under TPS quadrupled and even exceeded the amount of overseas development assistance they have been receiving.
In his presentation, Rodis said approval of the TPS request would help the Philippines strengthen its capacity to respond to similar disasters in the future.
“The Philippines is situated in the Pacific Rim of Fire and should expect more Haiyans to come down its way. It is just a question of which part of the Philippines will be struck next and when,” said Rodis.
For her part, Versoza said the ongoing recovery effort in the affected areas is putting a strain on the resources of the Philippines. She cited data from the US Agency for International Development that said that more than 2 million survivors are still without durable shelter.
“Everyday is a struggle in the typhoon-devastated areas in the Philippines. TPS is one way to help us rebuild and recover,” Versoza said.