By Joe Guzzardi
December 20, 2013
This week, Philippines’ President B. Simeon Aquino formally requested that the United States designate his country as eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). If granted, probable outcome, Filipinos would be allowed to stay and work in the US even if they are currently illegal residents. Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F.del Rosario added to Aquino’s statement that TPS would help Filipinos support their families back home by sending remittances and thus assist in the country’s post-Haiyan recovery.
Under federal immigration law, the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary may designate a country for TPS because of prevailing conditions that prevent its nationals from returning safely. Circumstances can include civil war or, as in the Philippines’ case, a natural disaster like a typhoon. TPS converts aliens’ immigration status to legal residency, gives them work authorization and enables them to secure travel documents as well as driver’s licenses. They cannot be deported.
Many Filipinos would benefit. According to the Census Bureau, more than 3.4 million Filipinos live in the US with 1.4 million in California. Filipinos are the largest Asian group in ten of 13 western states including California. In 2010, the Philippines were the fourth largest immigrant-sending country behind Mexico, China and India.
Among the Filipino population, those who came on various visas categories like students, IT workers, businessmen, investors, entertainers and religious personnel but went out of status are likely to qualify. Even those who entered illegally by crossing the Canadian or Mexican border could be given TPS.
All previous TPS programs have one thing in common: They ended up becoming permanent. No one goes home. Liberian illegal aliens were granted TPS in 1991 because of its civil war, and it’s been renewed ever since. Ditto for Hondurans and Nicaraguans (1998) and Salvadorans (2001).
During the last 12 months, the Department of Justice extended TPS status previously issued years ago to eight nations: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Somalia and Syria.
While the US takes pride in its compassion for worldwide natural disaster victims, its TPS policy is not temporary but instead a program that rolls over indefinitely, adds permanent residents to an already overpopulated nation, and tightens a labor market which already includes 20 million unemployed Americans. Once TPS is universally recognized as a farce, the only word that applies to a program officially called “temporary” but that last indefinitely, it becomes another illegal immigration magnet.
Would be aliens from Mexico, China and India may be emboldened by the probability that their well-funded lobbyists could claim TPS on their behalf. Mexicans, for example, could profess fear of drug cartel violence directed against them; Chinese, human rights violations and Indians, gender discrimination, poverty, illiteracy, lack of sanitation and poor health services.
In 2013, Congress made a full bore effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform, a battle that will resume in 2014. If reform eventually passes, between 12 and 20 million illegal immigrants will be granted amnesty; legal immigration would more than double in the next two decades. This year, without congressional approval, the White House also granted deferred action to some alien parents with minor children, removed illegal immigrant military families from deportation, extended deferred action for childhood arrivals and pushed back TPS deadlines.
Individually and collectively, these unilateral amnesties hurt Americans. They don’t represent thoughtful immigration policy. Temporary should mean temporary. Visa expiration dates must be honored. Except in extraordinary cases, illegal immigrants must be deported. Yet, to the dismay of enforcement advocates, these sane immigration cornerstones that would help create a stabilized population and an improved job market are considered too radical to implement.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]