Bringing TPS to The White House

The author (right) with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who is the first voting member of Congress of Philippine descent

The author (right) with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who is the first voting member of Congress of Philippine descent

By Rio Guerrero

On March 14th, by invitation from The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, over 100 Filipino American community leaders from across the country traveled to The White House and participated in a briefing on issues affecting our community. The topic agenda included Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, immigration reform, the Affordable Care Act and small business development.

Of course, my primary goal during this briefing was to advocate for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the Philippines. I held a number of valuable conversations with White House staffers and delivered up-to-date advocacy documents supporting our national TPS movement.

While at The White House, I also helped educate national community leaders on TPS. After a break-out session on immigration reform, a Filipino leader from California approached me and asked, “I know that you have been one of the national leaders on TPS. Why have you been pushing so hard for months for TPS? Is it really that important?”

My reply was: “TPS is both humanitarian relief and immigration relief. For too long – over a dozen years – I have had to tell far too many of our kababayans, ‘I’m sorry. But right now under current immigration law there is nothing that I or anyone else can do to fix your status in this country. I know that you came to see me with the hope that I could provide you with a solution. I really hate giving this advice. But take away this truth and don’t let any notario or unscrupulous attorney take advantage of you by preying on your hope and promising something they can’t deliver. I believe the U.S. government will enact a law or implement a policy to help you someday. You have been so patient for so many years. But I have to ask you to be patient a little longer.”

Every time I give this advice, I watch powerless as hope fades from the person’s face and my heart sinks a little further. I don’t want to give that advice anymore. Our kababayans are a good and hardworking people. They deserve a humane solution. They have been too patient for too long.

By the look on this person’s face, clearly a light had gone on in his mind regarding this issue. That is the type of education and epiphany our “Relief 2 Recovery” national coalition seeks to achieve with its TPS advocacy before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

During our White House briefing we were invigorated to learn from White House staff that our “Relief 2 Recovery” stakeholder meeting with DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on February 27th in Washington, D.C. is widely recognized throughout DHS and The White House as one the most impressive stakeholder meetings the Deputy Secretary has ever participated in. Clearly, the voice of “Relief 2 Recovery” on behalf of Filipinos is reverberating throughout the corridors of Washington D.C.

Last week, “Relief 2 Recovery” learned from our long-time ally Molly Groom, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy of DHS, that the U.S. Department of State (State Dept.) finally issued its TPS recommendation to DHS. However, contrary to other claims and reports, the substance of that TPS recommendation remains confidential. Currently, DHS is waiting for the TPS recommendation of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After DHS receives the USCIS recommendation it will issue its final decision on TPS. It could be just a couple of weeks or even only a few days before DHS issues its decision. We are at the critical final stages of this TPS decision-making process.

“Relief 2 Recovery” has been working on this issue with the U.S. and Philippine governments since only days after Haiyan devastated the Philippines over four months ago, and we remain in close conversation with DHS and USCIS officials. “Relief 2 Recovery” advocates across the country continue to work with members of Congress and state government officials to keep the pressure on the decision-makers at DHS and USCIS. In fact, this past Wednesday, March 26th, a bipartisan letter from Congress led by Representatives Mike Honda (D-CA) and Ed Royce (R-CA), signed by 34 members of the House of Representatives, was delivered to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, seeking a full and immediate TPS designation for the Philippines. Indeed, it was “Relief 2 Recovery” coalition leadership that drafted this letter along with Congress.

I am immensely proud to be working with so many zealous and tireless advocates across this country to deliver TPS to our kababayans. “Relief 2 Recovery” has fostered unity and collaboration in our community on a national scale – the likes of which have not been seen in decades. From New York to California, Illinois to Washington, and all across this country the passion of our Filipino community has been inspiring and fueling us at “Relief 2 Recovery” to keep fighting. It is truly amazing to be a part of this coalition.

For all our kababayans lobbying for TPS across the country, those who are part of our “Relief 2 Recovery” national coalition and those who have chosen to go it alone, I want you to know that you are doing a tremendous job advocating on this issue. Now, is our final push for TPS. We need all of you to call DHS at (202)282-8495, The White House at (202)456-1111, and your members of Congress and demand a full TPS designation for the Philippines. If you have called before, then please call again. If you have not called yet, then now is your last chance to help. We are only asking one minute of your time. These are the final days and weeks of this national TPS movement and we need your help right now. We can achieve TPS. But we can only get there by rowing in the same direction and working together. “TPS Now!”

Atty. Rio Guerrero is the recipient of a coveted NAPABA “Best Lawyers” National Award in recognition of his success over the past 15 years, representing clients in all 50 United States and throughout the world with their U.S. immigration matters. He is a partner with the New York-based immigration law firm of Guerrero Yee LLP. He is also an Adjunct Immigration Law Professor at the CUNY School of Professional Studies in Manhattan. He is the Chair of the Immigration Committee of the National Filipino American Lawyers Association (NFALA). You may contact him at or (646)545-5000.

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