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Immigrants at risk of deportation as TPS talks break down

WASHINGTON — Thousands of immigrants living in this country under humanitarian protections, including roughly 4,000 in Nevada, are now at risk of deportation due to stalled negotiations between the Biden administration and immigration lawyers.

After a year of talks, negotiations broke down this past month, leaving immigrants with Temporary Protected Status at risk of deportation under decisions made by the Trump administration to revoke their ability to live and work in this country.

Only immigrants from four countries — El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Nepal — are at risk, due to an ongoing federal case in California, after a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court judge who upheld the protections for TPS recipients.

Biden administration officials have yet to announce whether talks will resume or be expanded to include officials from other federal departments or agencies.

“We cannot comment on ongoing litigation,” a Department of Homeland Security spokesman told the Review-Journal.

But the spokesman also noted that revocation, absent court-ordered action, would require additional steps to complete, allowing time for a final resolution.

“Current TPS holders from El Salvador, Nepal, Nicaragua and Honduras will continue to be protected over the coming months,” the spokesman said.

Immigrants in jeopardy

About 337,000 TPS card holders nationwide are at risk for removal if a decision is not reached by the end of the year, according to immigration advocacy groups.

There are 4,175 people from those countries who live and work in Nevada under protected status, according to the National Immigration Forum. When talks broke down, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., immediately urged the administration to begin anew.

“This is unacceptable,” Cortez Masto wrote on Twitter. “The White House needs to get back to the bargaining table right now.”

A year ago, Cortez Masto and U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., co-sponsored a bill to provide permanent status for TPS card holders who are without criminal records and who meet other criteria.

Many of those who have fled violence, persecution and natural disaster and are now in Nevada as business owners, co-workers and neighbors, Cortez Masto said.

Rosen said with the breakdown in negotiations, the “uncertainty that TPS recipients and their families are facing is deeply troubling.”

“We can’t allow them to continue living in limbo. I call on the Biden administration to renew these protections now,” Rosen said in a statement to the Review-Journal.

Program changed under Trump

The temporary protected status program began under President George H.W. Bush.

President Joe Biden, after his election, promised to undo former President Donald Trump’s revocation of status for immigrants from some war-torn countries. But Trump sought to end the program for selected countries claiming conflicts and disasters that created the need for protected status have since been resolved or recovery occurred that makes the designation unnecessary.

A lawsuit was filed in 2018 challenging the Trump administration’s decision to revoke the status of immigrants from certain countries, which plaintiffs claimed was based on race and ethnicity.

A federal judge in California agreed, citing the order by the Trump administration that failed to address the status of TPS card holders from European nations. The judge barred revocation of program status for immigrants from the specified countries targeted by Trump.

The three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, however, reversed the lower court ruling in a split decision that found the lower court could not determine the president’s intent of the order to block the action.

The three-judge panel’s reversal has been appealed by plaintiffs who are seeking a ruling from the circuit’s entire panel of 29 judges.

Meanwhile, Biden has restored the TPS status for immigrants from Sudan and Haiti, which were in the original Trump revocation order.

Collapse of a negotiated settlement for immigrants from the other countries in the original lawsuit puts those card-carriers at risk of removal unless a decision is reached or the appellate court intervenes.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have had humanitarian protection in the U.S. for more than two decades. That they are at risk of being torn from their communities and families is cruel and unjust,” said Emi MacLean, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California, which represents the plaintiffs.

“President Biden must act immediately to undo Trump’s racist TPS terminations and guarantee protection for TPS holders,” MacLean said in a statement.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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