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Senator Catherine Cortez Masto speaks during the Nevada Democratic Party election night event at Caesar Palace in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto Monday urged the Department of Homeland Security to quickly correct an inaccuracy with its immigrant-status verification system that is keeping up to 6,000 Nevadans who are in the country legally from getting their driver’s license.

“I write today with an urgent concern regarding Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients who are unable to obtain or renew their driver’s licenses in my home state of Nevada,” Cortez Masto’s said in a letter addressed to DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli.

At issue is the USCIS’ Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) System, which is used by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to verify the immigration status of those seeking licenses.

The system shows the DHS’s original TPS cancellation date, which was extended for several nationalities prior to cancellation. For example, the program was extended for El Salvadorans early last year to September 2019 from September 2018.

The issue has forced the DMV to deny driver’s license renewals to immigrants who should be eligible. TPS is a program designed to help refugees from countries destabilized by war or other disasters.

“More than 6,000 Nevadans currently have TPS,” the letter said. “TPS recipients have legal status in the U.S. and should be able to receive or renew their driver’s licenses and other state identification without issue.” 

“This oversight of a critical immigration verification system is unacceptable and could negatively impact thousands of TPS holders who need their licenses for their day-to-day lives, not just to drive but to board planes, show eligibility for state services and interact with businesses,” Cortez Masto continued.

The general consul of El Salvador in Las Vegas, Tirso Sermeño, told The Nevada Independent earlier this month that his office has received several reports of people with legal residency under the TPS whose documentation was rejected when they went to the DMV to renew their driver’s license. 

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