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NYIC is part of the #Relief2Recovery Campaign

Written by Venus Bermudez, Legal Fellow, New York Immigration Coalition

Nearing two months since the Bohol earthquake and one month since Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan consecutively hit the Phillipines, thousands of Filipinos remain without shelter and in dire need of aid. The number of people killed by the Typhoon continues to rise and is now estimated at over 5,700. In the United States, thousands of undocumented Filipinos are unable to travel back to help their families due to fear of being denied re-entry to the United States where they have built their homes.

In an effort to provide relief to Filipinos, a national campaign called “Relief 2 Recovery” is urging the Aquino Administration to formally request temporary protected status (TPS) for Filipinos and is calling on the Obama Administration to immediately grant TPS to Filipinos. TPS will help to empower Filipinos to aid in the recovery of their homeland.

Last week press conferences were held in New York City, Chicago and San Francisco to discuss TPS. As part “Relief 2 Recovery” in New York, Damayan Migrant Workers Association, New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), and the National Filipino American Lawyers Association (NFALA) coordinated the NYC event in order to call for immigration relief for Filipinos.

At the press conference, Irina Matiychenko, director of the Immigrant Protection Unit, and Melissa Chua, supervising attorney, from NYLAG, explained that TPS is a type of protection afforded to nationals who cannot safely return to their country of citizenship due to a temporary condition, such as armed conflict or national disaster. They also discussed the eligibility requirements for TPS and explained that TPS did not lead to a “green card”.

The benefits associated with TPS for Filipinos include: 

  1. Protection for Filipinos in the US from having to return to the Philippines during this time of crisis;
  2.  Employment authorization and increased ability to send remittances back to the Philippines in order to help support affected family members and friends;
  3. Prevent increasing the burden on the Philippines during its recovery efforts and already overextending social services and infrastructure.

Josie Gutierrez of Damayan Migrant Workers Association shared her own story as a Filipino in the US affected by the natural disasters that hit the Philippines. She said that before the Bohol earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan hit, she had divided up her small income in order to support not only herself in the United States, but also her mother, her sister and her sister’s four children. Now, she is also caring for her cousin and her cousin’s six children, as well as her neighbor and her neighbors’ ten children. In all, she is currently supporting 20 children. Josie’s voice broke as she described the destruction and its effects on her family. She hopes that TPS will be extended to Filipinos in the US to allow others to help their family and friends, too.

Today in Washington D.C, the Relief 2 Recovery campaign holds a candlelight vigil outside of the Embassy of the Phillipines to urge the Phillipin and U.S governments to grant Filipinos with temporary protected status. If you are in D.C, please join! Or tweet your thoughts at #relief2recovery.

For questions on how to help and join the Relief 2 Recovery Campaign, contact Venus Bermudez at vbermudez@thenyic.org.

Photo above: New York advocacy groups pose with "Relief 2 Recovery" banners.

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