Las Vegas Sun

November 18, 2018

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Cruelty to our hardworking neighbors is not an American ideal

It’s a national disgrace that people like Patricia Roxana-Navas will spend this Christmas worried about their future.

Roxana-Navas is among the quarter-million El Salvadorans living in the U.S. on Temporary Protected Status, a safeguard provided by Homeland Security to immigrants from countries torn apart by war, natural disasters or other catastrophes.

For 18 years, Roxana-Navas has lived in Las Vegas. If she’s been your neighbor, congratulations. If she hasn’t, she’s the type you dream about having.

She’s a mother of two teenagers and an aspiring small-business owner. For 13 years, she’s been a model member of the New York-New York housekeeping staff. She’s been named Employee of the Month and has had her picture taken twice with Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman after being nominated for a company customer service award.

She’s bought two houses, and has paid off one. She pays her taxes, gives food to people who are down on their luck and has lived in the U.S. longer than she lived in El Salvador.

She’s as salt-of-the-earth American as they get, with one exception — she doesn’t have a document designating her as one.

That’s no fault of her own. TPS doesn’t provide a pathway to permanent legal status, meaning those who are protected by it are stuck in limbo.

And now, they’re facing a great deal of uncertainty. Unless the Trump administration extends it, Roxana-Navas and her fellow Salvadorans who’ve been granted TPS will lose it. A ruling is expected in January.

Recent rulings resulted in more than 2,500 Nicaraguans and 50,000 Haitians losing their status, fueling worries that El Salvador is next.

So going into the holiday season, Roxana-Navas is wondering how much longer she’ll be with her daughter, 13, and her 15-year-old son. If she loses her status, she’ll return to El Salvador and her kids will stay with relatives in the U.S. The children were both born here and have no connections to El Salvador.

“When they started saying they were going to eliminate TPS, I just started crying,” she said. “My daughter says to me, ‘I’ve got to go with you,’ and I say no. My country is dangerous, and it’s not easy to find jobs there.”

Roxana-Navas’ family is among thousands that could be split apart in this dark moment of American history that is the Trump era. The nobility that led us to create a humanitarian measure like TPS has dissolved into some of the uglier elements of our nature — racism and xenophobia — and the result is that we’re treating good people cruelly.

There’s no compelling reason for this. TPS recipients are law-abiding — they must undergo a review every 18 months that includes a background check. Like other non-naturalized citizens, they can be deported if they commit crimes.

Beyond that, those granted TPS are a strong part of our workforce, one reason the Culinary Union is advocating on their behalf.

They also are some of the most grateful and patriotic people in America.

Roxana-Navas came to the U.S. as a teenager to escape poverty and gang violence. The promise of America was so strong that she spent six weeks getting here, walking across long stretches of desert at night and at one point being stuck in a hot van with the air circulation turned off.

“I thought I was going to die, honestly,” she said. “I was so scared.”

Today, she’s facing a different type of fear — returning to a country where her prospects are slim, the standard of living is well below what she enjoys in Las Vegas and she won’t see her kids for extended periods of time.

Congress should take action as soon as possible to provide a path to citizenship for those who are receiving protection.

Because no matter where we live in Las Vegas, Roxana-Navas and those like her are our neighbors. They contribute to the strength of our community by working hard to keep our industries strong, enriching our cultural diversity, investing in our neighborhoods, and in many other invaluable ways.

Turning our backs on them is un-American.