A bipartisan group of 19 senators sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging that the State Department (DOS) recommend the Philippines for temporary protected status (TPS) designation as a result of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan three months ago. DOS is part of interagency discussions underway about whether to grant TPS. A similar congressional letter was sent to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in November, and the government of the Philippines formally requested TPS designation in December.
The senators note that more than 6,000 people were killed in the storm, that more than one million homes in the Philippines were damaged or destroyed, and that more than four million people were displaced. In total, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), 16 million people in the Philippines were affected by Typhoon Haiyan – nearly one out of six people in the country.
The United States currently provides TPS or deferred enforced departure (DED) to over 300,000 foreign nationals from a total of nine countries. The senators cite several instances in which the U.S. granted TPS to citizens of other countries that have been struck by severe natural disasters, including Honduran and Nicaraguan citizens after Hurricane Mitch in 1999; Salvadorans after the 2001 earthquakes; and Haitian nationals after the 2010 earthquake. Other countries have been granted TPS or DED as a result of civil unrest, including Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria. Noting that the situation in the Philippines meets the statutory requirements for granting TPS as the law was applied to these other countries, the senators request equal consideration to the Philippines.
While under the immigration laws, the executive branch grants TPS or relief from removal, Congress has also provided TPS legislatively. Indeed, legislation that would grant TPS to Filipinos (H.R. 3602, the Filipino Temporary Protected Status Act of 2013) has already been introduced.