Do undocumented Filipinos in US qualify for TPS?

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario will check if undocumented Filipino workers in the United States “would qualify” for immigration relief through a temporary protected status (TPS), the Philippine government said Monday, September 22.

Del Rosario will discuss this in a meeting with Filipino-American leaders as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III visits the US from Saturday, September 20, to Wednesday, September 24, according to the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

The Philippines formally requested the US on December 13, 2013, to place it under TPS.

In a statement in December 2013, Del Rosario said placing the Philippines under TPS “will allow eligible Filipinos to stay and work in the US in order for them to assist in the country's continuing recovery efforts” after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which ravaged central Philippines in November 2013.

The US places a foreign country under TPS “due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely or, in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately,” according to the US Department of Homeland Security. 

The US Secretary usually places a country under TPS because of the following “temporary conditions” in the country:

Quoted by the PIA on Monday, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr said the US “has to look at the conditions very carefully to consider whether the Philippines qualifies or not.”

Cuisia pointed out that the TPS, after all, comes with benefits, such as undocumented workers being “able to get the jobs” at least for 18 months. “They may even be able to get a driver’s license – limited – so there are benefits that go with it,” he added.

He noted, though that the TPS will not legalize their status and will only give them an 18-month relief.

To 'work with no fear'

Knowing these benefits, Filipino workers in New York urged Aquino to push for the TPS as he visits the US.

Rosalina Cionelo, 70, whose relatives suffered from Yolanda in Leyte, said the US should grant the Philippines' TPS request “so I can work with no fear.”

Damayan coordinator Linda Oalican blamed the Philippine government's “lukewarm support” for the US' delay in granting the TPS request.

“President Aquino, we really need temporary protected status. Please remember that we, the overseas Filipino workers, are really supporting the economy of the country…. Many of our workers are aging mothers. You know how hard it is to work without work authorization? It’s very hard, President Aquino. We don’t deserve that,” Oalican said.

Cuisia, however, said the Philippines is coordinating with the US on the TPS request.

In fact, he said, Philippine officials met with US Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Alan Bersin to study the matter.

He told reporters that the US Department of Homeland Security “was very appreciative of hearing the views of the Filipino-American leaders who joined us in Washington DC.”

Cuisia said Bersin assured them that the US “would take into consideration all the comments made by the Filipino-American leaders.” – with reports from Ayee Macaraig in New York/Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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