DENVER -- A recent White House decision on immigration is making deportation a terrifying reality for a Denver mother.
Marlene Leiva from Nicaragua said she has legally lived in the United States for almost 20 years. She’s worked, paid taxes and followed the law. She soon might have to pack up her life and go.
“I’m trying to work as much as I can so that I don’t think about what’s happening,” said Leiva, 54.
In November, the Department of Homeland security announced the termination of Temporary Protection Status of 5,000 Nicaraguans living in the U.S. since 1998.
TPS was granted after Hurricane Mitch tore through the Central American country.
According to DHS, the storm killed 3,045 people and 885 were reported missing. The devastation of Hurricane Mitch affected nearly 868,000 people.
For the past almost 20 years, TPS was extended every 18 months. However, DHS now feels that is no longer necessary.
“Acting Secretary Duke determined that those substantial but temporary conditions caused in Nicaragua by Hurricane Mitch no longer exist, and thus, under the applicable statute, the current TPS designation must be terminated," DHS said in a statement.
Nicaraguans with TPS will lose their work visas on Jan. 5 and will lose protected status one year after that.
But Leiva sayid the reason she left still exists. There is no work for her there, she doesn’t have a home and doesn’t have the money to pay for one.
She works hard in the U.S. to support her grandchildren and her sick father in Nicaragua. She also lives with her 80-year-old mom who she helps with rent.
She said she’s worked in the same hospital for 17 years.
“She’s a part of our family. Without her we couldn’t do our jobs. We couldn’t. This isn’t right. She needs to stay for her and for all of us. She’s done nothing but contribute to our country," said Tricia McElwain, who works with Leiva.
DHS said it recognizes the hardship this might bring for Nicaraguan citizens and other in a potentially similar situation.
It called on Congress to enact a permanent solution for this inherently temporary program.
Meanwhile, Leiva’s co-workers have started a GoFundMe page to help pay for what they are sure will be costly legal fees.