NYLAG Urges Immediate Action to Protect Filipino Nationals in the Wake of Devastating Typhoon
In response to the desperate plight of millions of people affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the New York Legal Assistance Group has launched an advocacy effort to protect thousands of Filipino nationals currently living in the US.
“There are approximately 1.8 million Filipinos in the United States, including some tens of thousands in New York alone. It is clear that they cannot and should not be forced to return home in the midst of this disaster,” said Yisroel Schulman, NYLAG president and attorney-in-charge. “To do so would put them and their families at great risk, and only add to the overwhelming burden of those engaged in the massive emergency relief effort underway.”
Our nation has a long history of providing temporary refuge to those affected by natural disasters, including nationals from Japan, Haiti, and El Salvador. For example, after the devastating Haitian earthquake in 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took swift action in designating temporary protected status (TPS) for Haitians, permitting them to work legally in the United States and care for their families.
As one of the largest providers of free immigration legal services in the country, NYLAG has seen firsthand the plight of foreign nationals living in the US when disaster strikes their home countries. The organization has successfully launched large-scale programs to assist Haitians and other populations in immediately applying for TPS and other available forms of immigration relief in the wake of such crises. These remedies give stability and hope to those directly affected by a catastrophic event that prevents their safe return to their home country.
Recognizing the need to act immediately to ensure Filipino nationals receive similar protections from the US government, NYLAG urges Congress and the Administration, through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to take action as follows:
1. All Filipino nationals living in the US should be granted temporary protected status (TPS) following the precedents set in response to other similarly catastrophic disasters.
2. Filipino nationals should be granted automatic extension of nonimmigrant visas to give them time to apply for even longer extensions. Under these emergency conditions DHS should allow fee waivers for all such applications.
3. Humanitarian parole should be granted generally to all Filipinos who are waiting for immigrant visas, allowing these individuals to unite with their families immediately.
4. DHS should exercise prosecutorial discretion to all Filipinos currently in removal proceedings.
“It is hard not to dwell on the devastation and the tragic loss of life in the Philippines. But with these measures, our country can come to the aid of thousands of Filipino nationals who are living and contributing to the quality of life in the US, or who aspire to do so,” said Mr. Schulman.