The ImmiGRAtion Blog
Potential TPS Designation for the Philippines
In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, the immigration law community has been discussing the possibility of temporary protected status (TPS) designation for the Philippines.
“The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may designate a country, or portions of a country, for TPS when conditions exist such as an ongoing armed conflict or an environmental disaster in the country that temporarily prevents the country’s nationals from returning safely. While not required, typically a country must first request TPS before the Secretary will make a designation. Once a country receives a TPS designation, nationals of that country residing in the U.S. receive a temporary, humanitarian form of relief from deportation that does not include the granting of permanent residence. The initial TPS designation lasts for a period of 6 to 18 months and can be extended if conditions continue to support the designation.”
If the Philippines is designated, Filipino nationals in the U.S. may apply for temporary protected status to prevent themselves from being removed from the U.S. by the government, and/or to get work authorization and a temporary lawful immigration status if they are not in removal proceedings. They must meet eligibility requirements, which includes not being “inadmissible” for certain criminal convictions, fraud or misrepresentation, or other negative factors. Should Filipinos become eligible to apply, they should seek assistance from immigration attorneys or non-profit organizations under the direction of an immigration attorney when submitting their applications.
The Philippine government must make the request to the U.S. government through its diplomatic channels. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of the typhoon, the Philippine government has been criticized as being “useless” and “paralyzed” in taking leadership for the relief efforts. Hopefully, the diplomats can work or are already working to secure TPS designation.
Some of the reasons for TPS designation include:
- “On Friday, November 8th, Typhoon Haiyan – one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land – hit the Philippines, bringing sustained winds of 147mph and waves as high as 45ft. An estimated 6.9 million people have been affected by the storm. Relief efforts are just beginning as debris is slowly being cleared from access roads and airports begin to re-open. The death toll is estimated to be in the thousands while the number of people displaced by the massive storm rises into the hundreds of thousands. The long term impacts of the storm are still yet unknown.
- It would impose a great burden on the rescue and restoration effort in the Philippines to require the country to reabsorb its nationals from abroad, many of whom may have homes that were destroyed by the Typhoon. TPS exists to provide a safe haven for those who are reluctant to return to potentially dangerous situations, and to assist nations who are under extraordinary and temporary conditions and face difficulties in receiving their nationals safely.
- A grant of TPS would allow Filipinos here in the U.S. to work and support their families in the Philippines who were impacted by the Typhoon. Remittances account for almost 10 percent of the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product. Now, more than ever, those funds are needed to help support the recovery process.”
Processing Times for Immediate Relative Visa Petitions
Last month, USCIS released new processing time reports for various visa petitions, including Form I-130 petitions for immediate relatives. Immediate relatives are spouses, parents, and children under 21 of U.S. citizens and are the most favored category. There is no wait for a visa number in this category. Contrast it to someone who is a sibling of a U.S. citizen – a brother or sister in the Philippines may have to wait 23 (or possibly more realistically 40) years for a visa number to become available in that preference category. Generally, U.S. citizens will file stand-alone I-130 visa petitions for immediate relatives who are living abroad and will apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
The new processing time for the I-130 visa petition for immediate relatives is now a little over one year at the California Service Center. A review of the Nebraska, Texas, and Vermont Service Center processing times also shows backlogs of more than one year. This has been disheartening news and it is the worst backlog I have seen in that category at the California Service Center in several years. That processing time does not include consular processing time. Previously, visa petitions for immediate relatives were taking about five (5) months to adjudicate at the California Service Center (again, not including consular processing). From August last year to about February this this year, visa petitions in this category were being transferred to the local USCIS district offices for adjudication to help accommodate DACA (Deferred Action, Childhood Arrivals) applications. The result was actually beneficial. For example, in the San Francisco district, it was only taking about two to three months to adjudicate the petitions. USCIS recently began transferring immediate relative I-130 petitions to the various regional service centers to balance overall workload, and the result has been the backlog.
I am an optimist at heart and am hopeful that the backlogs will decrease. USCIS has made strides with customer service and processing times, and I cannot believe that it would take so many steps back. It is also my understanding that at least one of the service centers has hired additional officers, which will help decrease backlogs once they are fully trained.
One possible solution that immigration lawyers are now discussing is bringing back the K-3 visa. The K-3 visa was introduced early in the millennium as an ameliorative visa that allowed spouses (and K-4 dependent children of K-3 spouses) to wait out the then long processing times of pending visa petitions in the United States. There are more applications and procedural steps to follow, and extra costs, but separation between spouses is shortened. For many years, K-3s had been disfavored by immigration lawyers, and, unfortunately, offered as scams to unwitting consumers by visa form-filling companies. They would charge for the extra service, and the K-3 visas were pretty much useless because they were taking as long to adjudicate as the visa petitions (when things were moving fast) and then cancelled out by the embassy to proceed on the I-130 visa petition. Now, with longer visa petition adjudication wait times, the K-3 may be an option to consider depending on your personal facts and circumstances. I am wondering if a backlog will develop for the K-3 category now that the I-130s are taking so long.
As always, I advise people to consult with an immigration attorney for your particular legal situation.
**Update – as of November 18, 2013, the latest processing time for immediate relative I-130s at the California Service Center is down to nine (9) months.
Image from Late Magnolia
Immigration and the Separation of Families
An article in the New York Times this week brings up “The Heartache of the Immigrant Family.” It discusses the painful decision some parents make to leave their children behind in their country of origin so that they can make a better life and send money to their families. Sometimes, they are able to send for their children later after they are able to immigrate legally (or not). This phenomena is something that has bothered me for a long time – even before I became a mother. As I have gotten older, I have become less and less judgmental and am very tolerant of peoples’ choices. However, the last frontier is – if not accepting – understanding how a mother can leave her child behind in search of work or a better life. Maybe I am too naive because I don’t know what it is like to live in abject poverty. What troubles me more is when the families are not in abject poverty, and children get passed around between grandparents, aunts and uncles. Or when they bring three of their children and leave the youngest, fourth child behind so that they can immigrate them “later”. Why not bring your youngest, too?
What I do know is that this separation affects children permanently. I have seen the pattern over and over again through the years, particularly with families from one particular country, which I do not want to single out. The children often have teen pregnancies. If they immigrate here they may join gangs or shoplift. They become truants, basically. In addition to having to cope with living in a new country, they have to learn to live again with a parent that they deep down they feel had abandoned them.
The other half of the article discusses the devastation that deportation has on the immigrant family. When one or both parents are removed and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children stay behind. This issue is more understandable. I would also have a hard time bringing my U.S. citizen child to another country and taking him or her out of high school and the only country he or she may have known. I am very against the break up of families not necessarily because I am a bleeding heart liberal. There is a practical purpose to it as well. The same troublesome psychological and emotional patterns emerge when a family is torn apart. It can make the child stronger and go out of his or her way to succeed, or more often, can contribute to delinquency and inability to achieve a person’s full potential, especially if it is at a vulnerable age for a child. Not that all will become criminals – that is too simplistic. It’s been shown that criminals usually have some type of maternal neglect in common. Also, there was a special on elephants years ago where the teen elephants whose fathers had been poached and had no male role models became delinquents. My point is that society as a whole will be more successful with intact families, and that the breaking up of families does not deter illegal immigration, but just creates misery and societal problems.
Well, this is all my opinion and some observations from the last 13 years. If you are a parent in another country who has the option to bring in that fourth child when you immigrate, please do it. If you are a lawmaker or work for a government agency where you can exercise some discretion, please think of the big picture.
October is Filipino American History Month
October is Filipino American History Month. The San Francisco celebrations kicked off with a concert by Tony Award winner Lea Salonga. She is regarded as a “national treasure” by Filipinos and Filipino Americans. The same night, Parangal Dance Company hosted their fifth anniversary show. The following day, the Asian Art Museum celebrated its annual festival with art displays, food, music and dance. This weekend, there will be a concert of songs and dances at Skyline College by performers from Smoky Mountain. Finally, on October 20, Yoshi’s will host the San Francisco Filipino American Jazz Festival.
Did you know…
Filipinos have been in the U.S. since the 16th century!
Filipinos had their own alphabet in pre-colonial times.
Filipinos are the largest Asian group in California.