Temporary Protected Status holders with family members in Las Vegas last year. Members of the House Congressional Hispanic Caucus have raised opposition to policies that would undermine immigration reform in reconciliation, such as only allowing DACA recipients to be eligible for citizenship and excluding TPS holders, farmworkers and essential workers. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)
Miguel Barahona is one of thousands legally living and working in Nevada under humanitarian protections who could now face deportation as early as March, if a decision made Monday by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California stands.
“I’m disillusioned and angry,” Barahona said in his native Spanish. “To survive the pandemic is already hard and it would be harder still if we didn’t have the documentation we have now.”
In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of three judges reversed a lower court decision that had blocked President Donald Trump’s attempt to phase out Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.
The TPS program grants citizens of countries experiencing war, natural disasters and other emergencies temporary refuge in the U.S. It was created in 1990 under former President George H.W. Bush and now includes ten countries.
Monday’s decision could affect more than 400,000 TPS holders nationwide.
In Nevada, an estimated 6,300 people from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti lived in Nevada under the program, according to a report by the Center for American Progress. Those families had a combined 5,200 U.S. born children, according to the report.
A majority of those protected by the program in Nevada are from El Salvador and could be forced to leave the U.S. by Nov. 5, 2021, including Barahona, a father of three, who has lived in the U.S. for 25 years.
Under the ruling, TPS could be eliminated for Haiti, Sudan, Nicaragua, Nepal and Honduras by March 5.
“The future of my children is here,” said Barahona in his native Spanish, recounting how his 13 year old daughter cried after hearing the news. “They give me the strength to keep fighting.”
Salvadorians account for nearly 31 percent of those working in the hard-hit accommodation and food services industry in Nevada, according to a report by the Center for American Progress.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Barahona was working conventions. He has been unemployed since March.
“I haven’t worked a single day,” Barahona said.
Pablo Deras is another Salvadoran TPS holder living and working in Nevada. He has lived in the U.S. for more than 15 years and has a U.S. born son.
“I’m sad they made this decision because we’re fathers. We have children who were born here and they have the right to grow up with their fathers by their side, supporting them,” Deras said in his native Spanish. “We don’t want to be separated from our families.”
Deras was working as a steward at the Wynn Las Vegas before losing employment due to the pandemic.
“This is like another pandemic attacking us,” Deras said. “A lot of us are suffering from unemployment and are concerned for our health. It’s like being in a car accident and then getting run over by another car.”
Both Barahona and Deras are members of TPS Committee Nevada, an affiliate of the National TPS Alliance, which intends to request a review of the case before the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs in the case said they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
“Our plaintiffs, our legal team, and the TPS community are preparing to appeal the decision in the entire Ninth Circuit. We will exhaust every legal recourse at our disposal to protect our community and our loved ones. We will take this fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary and continue to demand that Congress act now to pass a permanent residency,” said Paul Andre Mondesir, lead organizer for the National TPS Alliance, in a statement.
Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center and TPS Committee Nevada held a press conference Tuesday with community leaders, vowing to fight the decision.
“How would you feel if the government, after 25 years, made a decision saying ‘you don’t belong here. You need to go back to your country’? Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, is that fair? Is that just?” said Barahona during the conference.
“It needs to be clear that this case is about stopping the Trump administration from ending TPS,” said Paloma Guerrero, an immigration lawyer with the UNLV Immigration Clinic. “This case is not about getting a pathway to residency, it’s not about granting any benefits, it’s simply to put a stop to the Trump administration trying to end TPS. To get a road to residency Congress needs to act.”
Maria Mendoza, who also spoke at the press event, is a Honduran TPS holder working as a line cook for a restaurant in the Sahara Las Vegas. She has been in the U.S. for 23 years and is a mother of three.
Recipients from Honduras and Nepal are also facing uncertainty, as another court case on their behalf is on hold pending the outcome of the broader case, according to immigration attorneys.
“For TPS holders, yesterday’s news was really hard,” said Mendoza in her native Spanish. “I did not expect this decision. To tell you the truth, I cried.”
“Still, I’m going to put in the work,” Mendoza said. “I have never worked with so much courage and so much passion. I’m going to fight for every Honduran and everyone affected by this. We are united.”
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