A chorus of yeses went up around the room as a handful of families facing deportation under the Trump administration were asked by Nevada’s Democratic senator if they wanted to be citizens.
The families shared their stories and concerns with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., as lawmakers in Washington, D.C., negotiate an immigration deal.
She held a closed-door meeting with families today at the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 headquarters in Las Vegas, days after the government announced it would pull temporary protected status for El Salvador by September 2019.
“There has been an unfortunate effort by this administration to continue to tear families apart across this country,” Cortez Masto said in front of TPS recipients and reporters today. “One of the things that was happening here in Nevada continues down this path of sowing fear, tearing families apart and actually preying on a community unnecessarily creating chaos that should not exist.”
Ana Bermudez followed her mother to the U.S. from El Salvador after the earthquakes in 2001 and is living in Nevada under TPS.
Bermudez said she sometimes feels frustrated and afraid and wants a more permanent solution, not just work and residency permits. The senior at UNLV told Cortez Masto she works and volunteers to give back.
“You opened the door for us,” Bermudez said of the United States. “We want to say thank you.”
About 6,300 Nevada residents are TPS holders from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, according to the Center for American Progress.
The group says 4,800 of those TPS recipients are Salvadoran and are parents to about 5,200 U.S. citizens. About 200,000 residents nationally are TPS recipients from El Salvador.
Bills have been proposed in Congress to provide a solution for TPS holders. Nevada Democrats in the House are signed onto the American Promise Act of 2017, and Cortez Masto is a cosponsor of the Senate version of the bill, the SECURE Act.
This week, President Donald Trump and lawmakers in Congress appeared to be nearing a deal on immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals solution. DACA, a temporary program that covered about 690,000 immigrants as of early September, accepted its last batch of applicants last year.
Trump has said any deal on DACA would need to include border wall funding. Democrats have opposed a border wall.
Cortez Masto did not say today that she would oppose border-wall funding if it were part of a DACA deal. She said there are 2,000 miles of border with Mexico, with 700 miles of wall already built and 1,000 miles of terrain that cannot support a wall.
Cortez Masto said she thinks it’s important to question the administration’s price tag of $18 billion to put a wall on the remaining miles.
“We need to put this in perspective,” Cortez Masto said. “Do we all support border security, absolutely, and can that be part of the negotiation, yes. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be fiscally prudent...We can talk about, yes, border security, and still do right by these Dreamers and their families and continue down this path.”