The results of today's election will have lasting consequences for Las Vegas residents Miguel Barahona, his wife, both of whom fled their native El Salvador years ago, and their three daughters.
Four more years of a Donald Trump presidency could mean the end of Temporary Protected Status for Barahona and his wife and their possible deportation to El Salvador by the end of 2021.
The election of Joe Biden, on the other hand, could give them a path to U.S. citizenship.
Miguel Barahona came to the United States in 1996. He met the woman who would become his wife in Las Vegas. (She asked that her name not be published.) They are raising three American-born daughters here, the oldest of whom is 18.
For all intents and purposes, Las Vegas is their home.
“I feel like this is my second country,” Miguel Barahona said. “I’ve spent most of half of my life in this country.”
With their Temporary Protected Status, Barahona and his wife are in the U.S. legally. The Temporary Protected Status, which was established by Congress in 1990, protects recipients from deportation while allowing them to work in the United States. It is extended to people from countries experiencing issues like armed conflict or environmental disasters. The National Immigration Forum reports more than 400,000 people in the country have received the status.
If Trump has his way, it could be ending for the Barahonas and others.
The Trump administration received approval from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to wind down the program for those from El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti and Sudan.
Though the decision could be headed to the Supreme Court, if it stands, recipients from El Salvador could begin to be deported as soon as November 2021. Those from some other countries could be deported even sooner.
According to a Center for American Progress report, 6,300 El Salvadorans, Hondurans and Haitians in Nevada have been granted the status. They are parents of 5,200 American-born children.
If Biden wins the presidency, the recipients’ fate would be much different. Biden’s administration would protect TPS holders from being returned to countries that are unsafe, according to his campaign site. Also, those who have been in the country for an extended period of time will be “offered a path to citizenship through legislative immigration reform.” Biden's campaign website didn’t indicate how long of a period.
Biden would also extend the program to Venezuelans, as millions are fleeing socioeconomic and political problems that have gripped that country for most of the past decade.
“A Biden administration will immediately review every TPS decision made by the Trump administration and overturn all those that do not appropriately consider the facts on the ground,” Biden’s campaign site states.
Barahona said that regardless of who wins the presidency, his push for permanent residency would continue.
“Anybody can keep promising a lot of stuff, but in the end, we don’t know if they’re going to give us what they want,” said Miguel Barahona, a union bartender.
Protective status benefits are available to people from 10 countries — Haiti, El Salvador, Syria, Nepal, Honduras, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Nicaragua and South Sudan.
Barahona said he wanted people to vote to stop “breaking apart” families. His three daughters are American citizens and are not subject to deportation.
“We are asking people to vote to stop family separation, to vote against discrimination,” Barahona said.
Nazareth Jimenez is the American born daughter of a TPS recipient from Honduras, Francis Garcia. Garcia mother talked about her status occasionally when she was growing up, but the teenager didn’t know much about the program being in jeopardy until recently.
Jimenez, 16, will advocate for more protections for recipients in the upcoming months during a bus tour designed to bring awareness to the segment of the population at risk.
She said communicating about the problem — she tells her friends, who tell their parents, who tell their friends, she said — draws attention to what they hope will bring a fix.
“Regardless of who gets voted in, we need a TPS extension and we need residency,” she said.
Construction worker Daniel Peña Echeverria, 40, a native of El Salvador, has been in the United States since 2000 and has a 5-year-old son. Through an interpreter, Echeverria stressed that TPS recipients were a “source that helps with taxes, that helps with the economy.”
“(This) is part of why it feels so unjust that our right to work and our right to support our families is at risk,” he said. “My question is what’s going to happen to my 5-year-old son?”
Echeverria said he didn't think he could bring his son to El Salvador. He’s pushing, he said, for people to vote against “hate and racism.”
“That’s our fight,” Echeverria said. “To fight for justice and to not separate our families, to not lose family unity.”