Is Temporary Protected Status for the Philippines on the Horizon?

The Secretary of Homeland Security has the authority to designate a country, or portion of a country, for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in certain circumstances that prevent the country’s nationals from returning to the country safely or if the country is not capable of adequately handling the return of its nationals. Such circumstances include ongoing armed conflict (i.e. civil war), environmental disasters (i.e. a hurricane or earthquake), an epidemic, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.

If a country is designated for TPS, during the designated period, the eligible nationals of that country who are already in the United States are not removable and may obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) and travel authorization. In addition, a TPS beneficiary cannot be detained by the DHS on the basis of his or her immigration status in the U.S. While TPS is temporary and does not lead to lawful permanent residence or grant any other immigration status, a TPS beneficiary may still apply for nonimmigrant status, file for adjustment of status based on an immigrant petition, or apply for any other immigration benefit or protection for which the beneficiary is eligible.

Who is Eligible for TPS?

In order to be prima facie eligible for TPS, the individual must:

  • be a national of the country designed for TPS (if a person does not have a nationality, then he or she must have last habitually resided in the designated country);
  • file for TPS status during the open initial registration or re-registration period;
  • have continuous physical presence in the United States since the date of designation; and
  • have continuously resided in the United States since the date specified at designation.

However, an individual seeking TPS may not be eligible if he or she:

  • has ever been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors that were committed in the United States;
  • is found to be inadmissible as an immigrant under INA Section 212(a);
  • is subject to the mandatory bars to asylum, including participating in the persecution of another person or engaging in or inciting terrorist activities;
  • fails to meet initial TPS registration requirements;
  • if granted TPS, failed to re-register for TPS; or
  • failed to maintain continuous physical presence and continuous residence in the United States.
Why Could the Philippines be designated for TPS?

On Friday, November 8, 2013, the Philippines experienced a “delubyo” or Armageddon, when the second-deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) devastated the nation, particularly in the Visayas region. The sustained winds of 147 mph and waves as high as 45 feet resulted in catastrophic damages and thousands of casualties. An estimated 6.9 million people have been affected by the storm, with several thousand injured and even more people displaced.

U.S. Senator and Chairman on the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, Charles Schumer (D, NY) called for the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate the Philippines TPS to prevent possible deportation or removal of Filipinos legally present in the United States back to a nation devastated by Typhoon Haiya.

Requiring the typhoon-torn nation to accept its nationals from abroad would reduce the Philippine’s rescue and restoration efforts, especially considering many Filipinos may not even have homes to return to, and the severe limitation of potable water continues to worsen, posing significant health risks. Furthermore, permitting Filipinos already lawfully present in the United States would enable them to support their families and friends in the Philippines, where such remittances are necessary to aid in the post-typhoon recovery.

The roadblock for TPS designation for the Philippines is that the current number of Filipino nationals in the United States is estimated at 200,000. Although Senator Schumer’s appeals have gone unanswered, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) recently released an article reminding Filipino Nationals in the United States that they may seek alternative immigration relief measures, such as changing or extending status and expedited adjudication and processing. However, no mention of TPS has yet been made.

While it remains to be seen whether the Philippines will be designated for TPS, nations that have been similarly devastated by such natural disasters in the past have been designated for TPS, including El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras. In 2001, El Salvador was designated for TPS after a series of earthquakes wrecked the nation in early 2001, resulting in just over 1,000 casualties and over 15,000 homes destroyed. Between 2001 and 2012, an estimated 217,000 nationals from El Salvador benefited from TPS. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti resulted in over 150,000 deaths and the displacement of over 1.5 million people, 48,000 Haitians benefited from TPS between 2010 and 2013. When Hurricane Mitch razed Honduras in 1998, causing over 7,000 fatalities and $2 billion in damage, the U.S. designated Honduras TPS, benefiting approximately 66,000 Hondurans in the United States between 1998 and 2012. s between 1998 and 2012.