NEW YORK — One month after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, Julian Jagudilla, OFM, and New York City Council members called on the Obama administration to designate the Philippines a temporary protected status country.
If approved, 500,000 to one million Filipinos with expiring or expired visas will temporarily remain employed through an 18-month extension of the validity of those documents, enabling Filipinos to help rebuild their country. Remittances from overseas Filipino workers totaled more than $21 billion in 2012, 8.5 percent of the country’s total economic output that year, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
“For the United States now to try to send people back to the Philippines when they are in this moment of crisis and this moment of need, would create a further disaster in the Philippines,” said Daniel Dromm, chair of the city’s immigration committee, during a Dec. 19 press conference at city hall. In support of Filipino workers in the United States, the council unanimously passed a resolution urging the Department of Homeland Security to designate TPS status to the Philippines.
On Dec. 16, the Philippine government formally requested the United States to designate the nation a TPS country. Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people, with roughly 2,000 persons still unaccounted for and 16 million displaced by the storm. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the status of those from TPS countries, granted Haiti TPS nine days after the devastating earthquake in 2010.
A bill titled “Filipino Temporary Protected Status Act of 2013” was introduced in the House of Representatives on Nov. 21, 2013, with no further action taken. The bill’s progress can be tracked online.
“We are asking that during this Christmas season, the Department of Homeland Security and the Obama administration grant TPS for the Filipinos and grant it now,” said Julian, director of the Migrant Center of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, during the press conference. “May you make a difference in the lives of Filipinos here in the States and also in the Philippines.”
Since opening in November, the Migrant Center has been busy advocating for the United States to grant TPS for Filipinos. The center provides a facility for lawyers to convene anytime they need to meet to talk about the TPS. In the Dec. 27 issue of The Filipino Express, Julian stated that the center would open its doors for mass registration of TPS applicants, regardless of their religious beliefs.
“The Filipino Express was impressed by the mission of The Migrant Center of St. Francis of Assisi and its services to all immigrants, migrants, and refugees, regardless of nationality,” wrote reporter Grace Baldisseri.
The Migrant Center is in the process of beginning a new ministry to visit immigrants at detention centers in New Jersey, with hopes of convening the group by February, according to Julian, shown in photo above. A women’s group is also being formed. More information can be found on the center’s website.
Throughout the last few years, friars and other religious communities have been advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. In June 2013, leaders of the seven OFM provinces in the United States addressed a letter to President Barack Obama and members of Congress, urging them to pass reform legislation. Last fall, many friars and their partners-in-ministry participated in Fast for Families, a nationwide advocacy effort to raise awareness and compassion for those hurt by the nation’s current immigration policies.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province. The photo of Fr. Julian was taken at the Migrant Center’s immigration forum in November.