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I have been watching and reading news stories about the horrific devastation and destruction of Typhoon Haiyan.

As I write this, the death toll is rising and the extent of the destruction mounts. It was one of the strongest Typhoons ever, some people saying it was even stronger, and lasted longer, than Hurricane Sandy or Katrina.

Aside from the physical destruction and death, there is another level of damage that cannot be estimated in dollars or words: the emotional toll on Filipinos who are “trapped” in America and cannot go home to be with family because of their immigration status.

Just today, a client called, in tears, because her father was killed in the Typhoon. He had actually survived the brunt of the Typhoon, and went outside only after the winds had calmed. But while walking outside, he slipped, fell on his head, and began hemorrhaging. At the time, there was no electricity or telephone communication, and the nearest hospital was at least four hours away by car. But the roads were in shambles, and he died because he could not get access to any medical care.

During our call, my client tearfully relayed how she was still trying to find out what was going on with her family, in that she could only occasionally get a neighbor’s text message, as electricity and telephone communication were still unreliable in the province. She said that she wanted to hop on the next flight to the Philippines, to be with her family, and attend her father's funeral.

Although my office is currently processing her case, she has issues with her immigration “status,” and the priority date on her petition is still several years away. So, I had to be the bearer of even additional bad news: if she left the US to visit her family during this tragedy, she may not be able to return to the US for at least for 10 years. I told her that she has already sacrificed so much, and waited so long, for her American dream, and I know that her father, up in heaven, would not want her to abandon that dream by departing the US to attend his funeral. Believe me, this is one of the worst types of phone calls to have with a client, but she accepted and understood my advice.

And that is something I have always admired about Filipinos: their strength, courage, resilience, and ability to face tragedies and calamities. A Filipino’s character is molded by hope and prayers, as evidenced by the unity of Filipinos around the world in helping their Kababayans back home.

Once again, on behalf of myself, my family, and my law office, my heart and prayers go out to Filipinos, but I know that the strength, courage, perseverance, and resilience of Filipinos will again allow them to recover from yet another tragedy.

Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 30 years, and is an active member of the State Bar of California and New York, as well as the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Immigration Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.  He has always excelled in school:  Valedictorian in High School; Cum Laude at UCLA; and Law Degree Honors and academic scholar at Loyola Law School, which is one of the top law schools in California. 

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(This is for informational purposes only, and reflects the firm's opinions and views on general issues.  Each case is different and results may depend on the facts of a particular case. All immigration services are provided by an active member of the State Bar of California and/or by a person under the supervision of an active member of the State Bar.  No prediction, warranty or guarantee can be made about the results of any case.  Should you need or want legal advice, you should consult with and retain counsel of your own choice.)

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