Las Vegas Sun

June 17, 2019

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I’d lose everything’: Immigrants in Las Vegas unite to preserve protected status


Jeff Chiu / AP

In this March 12, 2018 file photo, supporters of temporary protected status of immigrants cheer, hold signs and a banner with the outline of El Salvador at a rally at a federal courthouse in San Francisco, the day a lawsuit was filed against the Trump administration over its decision to end a program that lets immigrants live and work legally in the United States. During a hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen questioned the Trump administration’s motives to end the program and repeated the president’s vulgar language to describe some countries during a White House meeting in January.

Pablo Deras escaped natural disaster and poverty in his home country of El Salvador nearly two decades ago to make his American dream come true in Las Vegas.

A janitor at the Wynn, Deras, 38, worked up to three jobs to provide for his wife and now 13-year-old son since moving to the United States in 2001. Thanks to his hard work, he’s a proud owner of a north valley house, a Chevy sedan, and his son attends a private middle school.

But Deras’ American dream could soon be only a memory. As the Trump administration draws closer to ending the Temporary Protected Status program for Salvadorans like Deras and refugee residents from 12 other nations, Deras fears losing his protected status would leave him exposed to be deported.

“I’d lose my job, I’d lose everything,” Deras said. “Eighteen years in the United States and it could all be gone just like that.”

On Thursday, Dares was one of 15 Las Vegas TPS recipients gathered at the Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center, 1948 E. Charleston Blvd., to protest Trump administration plans to eliminate the program. U.S. District Judge Edward Chen on Wednesday granted an injunction to block the government from terminating the program for immigrants from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua.

The program protects migrants in the United States from countries that face dire conditions such as epidemics, war or natural disaster. Previous administrations had opted to extend the protections for most of the countries involved every few years when they came up for review, but the Trump administration has moved toward ending protections for the majority of immigrants under the program, arguing that the initial conditions that necessitated them are no longer present.

Living in the U.S. for almost two decades, Deras argued there’s “nothing temporary” about the program, despite its name. He argues he’s earned the right to remain in the United States by working to support his family, and following the law.

Mayra Salinas, an attorney with the UNLV Immigration Clinic, said attendees at Thursday’s rally — most from El Salvador — gathered to unite in favor of extending the program once more. While Trump has repeated that his administration has no intention to do so, Salinas said the group is working to encourage Congress to write laws protecting TPS recipients.

“That’s our best chance right now,” Salinas said.

TPS also protects people from Nepal, Honduras, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. An estimated 7,000 to 9,000 TPS residents, the vast majority from El Salvador, live in Las Vegas.

Immigration attorney Martha Menendez said in Spanish the Trump administration is "outside the law" by taking a hard stance against the program. She pointed to Trump’s previous comments about Latin Americans and reference to Haiti as a "s---hole country."

“The way he’s doing it is wrong,” Menendez said. “The courts are going to make sure the law is interpreted correctly, and hopefully Congress is going to help us move forward to protect these people.”