WASHINGTON DC – Filipinos and their advocates came in full force, traveling from all over the country, weathering the cold in the nation’s capital all in an effort to convince the US government to approve the Philippines’ request to place Filipino nationals in America on a temporary protected status (TPS) until the country recovers from Typhoon Yolanda.
TPS would help about one million Filipinos in the United States with expiring or expired visas by allowing them to temporarily stay and work in the country, so they can continue to support their families in the Philippines following the calamity.
For the first time, kababayans and their advocates were able to meet with representatives from the US Department of State in Washington DC.
“The State Department was very productive because they listened to our concerns. They listened to our legal arguments. They took the data that we provided them and they openly accepted it and I believe they are really considering our concerns on this issue,” New York-based immigration lawyer Rio Guerrero said.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas, perhaps the most popular undocumented immigrant in America, also attended the meeting.
“They’re gathering facts. They’re making recommendations. This is going to be a test for our community. Whatever the decision is, in some ways, it’s going to show how organized and united we are and how active we are as a people,” Vargas said.
Meantime, Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia, Jr. met with the delegation separately to update them on the status of the TPS request.
Cuisia said based on his latest discussion with US officials they are still evaluating the Philippines’ TPS request, which was submitted on December 13.
"They’re also trying to get more information. They’re meeting with the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS. Then, of course, they will make a recommendation," said Cuisia.
For now, Cuisia said he does not know what that recommendation would be and whether there’s a timeline involved in making the decision.
Cuisia assured the Filipino community that the Philippine government is on top of the situation. He revealed that they are in touch with US officials involved and even plan to meet with the Bureau of Population and Refugees.
Leah Obias, coordinator of the Damayan Migrant Workers Association concluded, "It's important for us to have this dialogue so they know what we’re up to and why we’re pushing for TPS to pass."