Nevada Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen have joined several colleagues in support of a bill that would render migrants fleeing war or natural disaster eligible to apply for permanent residency in the U.S.
The Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and in Emergency (SECURE) Act was first introduced in the Senate in March 2019, but the measure did not advance and was reintroduced Monday by Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin of Maryland.
The bill would allow more than 400,000 qualified Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients to a chance at a green card if they have been in the country for at least three years and pass applicable criminal and national security background checks.
In Nevada, an estimated 6,300 people from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti lived in the state as of 2017 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, including Walter Martinez, who has been a TPS recipient since 2001, and a member of Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center and TPS Committee Nevada.
“We will be traveling to Washington DC later this month to ensure that congress does not forget us, nor use us as a bargaining chip in partisan politics,” said Martinez in a statement
“The SECURE Act is a vehicle for Senators to act quickly to provide long overdue permanent residency for our families,” said Nazareth Jimenez, a 16-year old youth advocate and the daughter of a Honduran TPS holder. “Our families have been organizing and advocating. The Biden administration signaled we would be a priority on day one, and we are calling on both Congress and the administration to fulfill that promise.”
The protection was originally created as a temporary relief but it has been extended over the years without a possibility to apply for citizenship or residency, leaving thousands of immigrants in limbo.
The program was canceled in May 2018 by the Trump administration before the Department of Homeland Security extended it late last year, until Oct. 2021.
The TPS program was created in 1990 under former President George H.W. Bush and now includes ten countries: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
“They have become our neighbors, co-workers, business owners, and so much more, adding to the beautiful social and economic fabric of our state. We must work to give these families the security and certainty they need to continue living and contributing to our country,” said Cortez Masto in a statement.