[box type=”default” size=”large”] Lewis, Mallonga, others meet with State, DHS officials [/box]WASHINGTON, D.C – Mounting a stepped-up campaign for the issuance of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Filipino nationals, leaders of the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF), National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) and US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG) met recently with Rob Silver, legal counsel for Alejandro N. Mayorkas, who is the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The meeting, which took place at the DHS main headquarters in Washington, D.C., came after an earlier meeting with Department of State officials responsible for presenting arguments for TPS to State Secretary John Kerry.
The Filipino-American leaders met with the top-level staff representing the Office of International Migration, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, which play a key role in the approval of TPS.
“It has been three months since Typhoon Haiyan and we’re still waiting for the U.S. government to act on what is clearly a humanitarian crisis,” said FALDEF President JT Mallonga, who led the delegation to DHS. “That’s why we’re mounting a full-court press because time is of the essence.”
Joining Mallonga in the meeting were Attorney Loida Nicolas Lewis and Angie Cruz of USPGG, and Jon Melegrito of NaFFAA.
Although the federal government shut down because of a snowstorm, the meeting at DHS was pushed through.
“We are eager to listen to what you have to say,” said Silver, who commended Cruz, Lewis and Mallonga for traveling all the way from New York in stormy weather. “We at DHS are completely aware of the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda and its impact on Filipinos here in U.S. That’s why we immediately issued immigration relief measures to ease their plight.”
On Nov. 15, 2013 or a week after Typhoon Haiyan hit Central Philippines, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued reminders to Filipino nationals that they may be eligible for benefit from such measures as change or extension of nonimmigrant status.
“We appreciate these relief measures,” Lewis told Silver. “But TPS is urgently needed now, and I hope you will convey this to Secretary Johnson.” Lewis also cited the importance of the issue to US-Philippine relations. “I am sure President Obama would like to see this matter resolved when he visits the Philippines in April. A denial of TPS would have serious repercussions.”
Mallonga presented to Silver an eight-page “Memorandum of Law,” which had prepared. “TPS is mainly a humanitarian relief,” Mallonga said. “In the case of the Philippines, Haiyan (Yolanda) poses a threat or danger to many Filipinos’ lives. Factors such as displacement, deprivation, extreme poverty and violence brought on by typhoon Haiyan warrant a humanitarian response from the United States.”
FALDEF, NAFFAA and USPGG are part of a nationwide campaign, led by Relief 2 Recovery, a coalition of more than 100 civic and faith-based organizations and labor unions.
In the last three weeks, leaders and activists have sent to the White House, DHS, DOS and congressional offices a barrage of letters, e-mails, phone calls and faxes. They have also resorted to social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to mobilize mass action across the US. Its efforts have successfully enlisted the support of nearly 100 US senators and representatives from both parties.
The Philippine government has also weighed in, officially requesting DHS to grant TPS.
In the meantime, DHS has announced that the week of Feb 24-28 will be a period of public engagement on the TPS for the Philippines. Through a tele-conference, DHS officials will provide background information, field questions and gather feedback.
“As a community, we cannot let up on our efforts now,” said Lewis. “We have to keep calling DHS and urge it to act expeditiously and favorably on this urgent matter.”