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Protesters in support of temporary protected status demonstrate in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Attorney General Aaron Ford has signed Nevada on to an amicus brief supporting the preservation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti and Sudan.

Ford is one of 22 attorneys general expressing their support for Ramos v. Nielsen, a case filed in March by the ACLU and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, among others, that is now before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief, filed Thursday, supports immigrants who have long had legal status through TPS but will face deportation after the Trump administration chose to phase out the program for participants from certain places, saying the conditions in those countries are improved enough that participants can return to them.

“Nevada is home to more than 4,000 Temporary Protected Status holders who are working, contributing members of our community at large,” Ford said in a statement Friday. “Facing dire circumstances, they sought shelter and comfort here. While this Administration has attacked this population and the program that protects them, my office has filed this brief to show support for these 4,000 individuals who call Nevada home, and we will continue to prioritize the safety and well-being of our families.”

Ford’s involvement is a contrast to his predecessor, Republican Adam Laxalt, who did not issue any public statements or announce any actions regarding TPS. Gov. Steve Sisolak also chimed in in support of the brief, calling TPS recipients a vital part of the state.

“Protecting the TPS program isn’t a negotiating tactic — it’s a promise made to the thousands of TPS holders for whom home means Nevada,” Sisolak said. “My administration will always stand up for the most vulnerable in our State, including our friends and neighbors who fled disease, violence, starvation and other life-threatening conditions.”

In 2017, the Trump administration announced it would be either cancelling or giving a final extension on legal status to hundreds of thousands of TPS beneficiaries from countries including Yemen, Nepal, Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. Under the program, people who had been living in the U.S. when their home countries were struck by natural disasters or major conflict, and who were in danger if they went home, were allowed to live and work legally in the U.S.

But while the program is designed to be temporary and the Trump administration says the conditions that prompted the initial designations in the countries are gone, many recipients — especially the hundreds of thousands from El Salvador who have had the protection for nearly two decades — say they’ve set down too many roots in the country to be sent back. About 270,000 American citizen children have at least one parent with TPS, and recipients face the choice of either returning to their home country and uprooting their children, or staying in America with them illegally and risk deportation.

The plaintiffs in Ramos v. Nielsen allege that the Department of Homeland Security enacted changes to TPS without following legal requirements and ignored other adverse conditions that have emerged in the countries with a TPS designation that make it unsafe to return.

A nationwide preliminary injunction is currently preventing DHS from terminating TPS protections for recipients from Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Sudan.

One of the plaintiffs is Orlando Zepeda, who joined a nationwide bus tour that stopped in Las Vegas in August to advocate for permanent legal residency for TPS recipients. Originally from El Salvador, Zepeda is the father of a 12-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son, the latter who is also a plaintiff.

“It’s very important that the administration knows that what it’s doing is wrong,” Zepeda told The Nevada Independent in an interview after the traveling protesters held a news conference in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. “They are families that deserve to be here because their children were born here and they need their parents.”

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