DC Follows 11 States Allowing Undocumented Immigrants to Drive Legally

Source: DC DMV

Washington, DC– The D.C. Council passed a bill this week, which was signed by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, that allows undocumented residents to apply for driver’s licenses. The new policy, which goes into effect May 1, 2014, sets up a system where undocumented immigrants will receive licenses that are the same but for their being marked “not valid for official federal purposes.”

Outside of D.C., 11 states and Puerto Rico allow people to apply for driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. Last week, Illinois began to implement its law to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants living in the state if they meet conditions like purchasing insurance. Illinois state officials expect half a million people to eventually apply for the ability to drive legally.

Not that long ago, only two states (New Mexico and Washington) allowed undocumented immigrants to be eligible for driver’s licenses. Now they are joined by: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Utah, Vermont, and now DC.

Sources: ImmigrationProf Blog; Immigration Impact;  NILC Driver’s Licenses Map

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Kristine Tungol Cabagnot is an attorney at Tungol Law, and welcomes your thoughts and queries at kristine@tungollaw.com.

Immigration Relief Available for Filipino Nationals Impacted by Typhoon Haiyan

Washington, DC–In a memo released on Nov. 15, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reminds Filipino nationals that those impacted by Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda in the Philippines) may be eligible for certain immigration relief measures upon request. The key word here is “may be eligible,” so it is pertinent to check with either USCIS or a credible immigration lawyer if interested in availing of the following relief measures:

 

  • Change or extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the United States, even when the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired;
  • Extension of certain grants of parole made by USCIS;
  • Extension of certain grants of advance parole, and expedited processing of advance parole requests;
  • Expedited adjudication and approval, where possible, of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
  • Expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs);
  • Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate; and
  • Assistance to LPRs stranded overseas without immigration or travel documents, such as Permanent Resident Cards (Green Cards). USCIS and the Department of State will coordinate on these matters when the LPR is stranded in a place that has no local USCIS office.

Note: “Immediate relatives” as per immigration regulation means the spouse or unmarried child under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen or LPR; an orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen; an orphan to be adopted in the U.S. by a U.S. citizen; or the parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old.

For more information on USCIS humanitarian programs, visit www.uscis.gov or call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

Source: USCIS Press Release

Help The Philippines Gain Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Residents rebuild what's left of their homes after Typhoon Haiyan. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Washington, DC–Filipinos all around the United States have quickly mobilized to petition for  the Philippines to be designated Temporary Protected Status (TPS), in light of the recent calamities that have ravaged the tiny island nation in the Pacific.

Under INA Section 244, 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 six to 18 months and can be extended if conditions continue to support the designation.

The decision to designate a country for TPS rests with the executive branch of the federal government. Congress does not vote on it, though members of Congress may ask the President to designate a particular country. However, it is up to the President and his agencies to make the final determination.

There are strong arguments for Philippines to be designated TPS status. On Friday, November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan  (locally known as Yolanda)–one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land–hit the Philippines, bringing sustained winds of 147 mph and waves as high as 45 ft. 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.

Before the deadly super typhoon, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the same geographical area in the Philippines on October 15, 2013. Hundreds of people died, more than 300 thousand people are displaced, and 3.2 million people are affected. A total of P2.25 billion (Philippine Pesos) worth of damages to public buildings, roads, bridges, and flood controls was reported. (See NDRRMC Update).

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.

The Washington, DC-based Migrant Heritage Commission has created a petition to the White House for TPS designation, while Change.org is also circulating a petition asking President Obama and the DHS Secretary to grant TPS to the Philippines. Meanwhile, the American Immigration Lawyers Association filed its request of the country’s TPS designation to the Acting Secretary of DHS, Rand Beers.

To sign the TPS petitions, you can either go through the Migrant Heritage Commission petition or Change.org’s petition. Every signature counts, so please do your part in helping the Filipinos gain TPS status, and in essentially rebuilding the Philippines.

Source: “AILA Requests Designation of the Philippines for TPS,” AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 13111450 (Nov. 14, 2013).

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Kristine Tungol Cabagnot is an attorney with the Tungol Law Office, and welcomes your questions and concerns at kristine@tungolaw.com.

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