WASHINGTON, DC – The Philippine Embassy in Washington DC hosted a dialogue between the Filipino-American community leaders and officials of the Department of Homeland Security in a last-ditch effort to convince the latter to grant hundreds of thousands of Filipino nationals in the U.S temporary protected status (TPS).
The 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) chairman 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.
"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.
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.
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 Loida Nicolas-Lewis said 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.
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