How U.S. Immigration Laws Could Help The Philippines Recover From Super Typhoon Haiyan


Vehicles and other debris still litter the coastal township of Basey.

Nearly a month after Super Typhoon Haiyan became the deadliest storm to ever strike the Philippines, the United States may help deal with the aftermath by protecting Filipinos in the U.S. from deportation and letting them work.

Filipino-American groups are calling for temporary protected status (TPS) to be extended to Filipinos currently in the country, allowing them to stay and work without fear of deportation for a set amount of time. That would include any Filipinos already on American soil, including those with tourist and student visas as well as those without any documents. The Filipino Workers Center estimates that TPS would apply to 800,000 to 1 million Filipinos.

Twenty U.S. Senators have signed a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in favor of granting TPS. DHS would have the authority to grant such a reprieve, and to specify how long it would last. All those affected returning to their previous status when it ends, unless it expires during the protected period.

With nearly 20,000 Haiyan survivors streaming into the already-crowded capital region of Manila alone, and 4.3 million people displaced in total, the country’s infrastructure is struggling to deal with mass evacuations from storm-devastated regions into urban areas. That chaos would only be worsened by the arrival of Filipinos deported from the U.S. or forced to return home from an expiring visa.

But instead of being an added tax on an already-stretched-thin system, Filipinos working in the U.S., if granted TPS, would be able to send money to family members who have been displaced or who lost their source of income in the storm.

“We have a country dealing with its own internal refugee situation,” Soriano Versoza told the LA Times. “Instead of absorbing deported immigrants into its infrastructure, it can focus on its own situation and going from relief to recovery.”

Super Typhoon Haiyan (known as Yolanda in the Philippines) killed more than 5,200 people, and is expected to cost $5.8 billion in reconstruction. Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines on November 7 with sustained winds of 190-195 miles per hour, making it the fourth-strongest tropical cyclone in recorded history, and the strongest ever to make landfall.

Climate change may have contributed to its effects. Rising sea levels could be worsening the destruction caused by storm surges, and warmer-than-usual ocean surface temperatures may have played a role in its incredible intensity.