democrats nv dinner
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley opens his palm to supporters alongside rivals Hillary Clinton (L) and Bernie Sanders (R) at a fundraising dinner in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 6th. Event host Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) points. Sanders and O’Malley have called for the Obama administration to halt controversial raids targeting Central American immigrants who have been slated deportation. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley called for deportation relief for unauthorized Central American Migrants at a the Nevada Democratic Party Dinner on Wednesday night. His remarks follow a series of raids targeting Central American migrants, many of whom have exhausted their legal options for refugee status according to the Department of Homeland Security.The former Maryland Gov. argued that the White House should grant legal status for the migrants instead, citing high levels of violence that threaten citizens of various Central American countries.

“The answer is not to deport mothers and children who walked thousands of miles to ask for refuge. The answer is to extend [Temporary Protective Status] to those who have fled from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador,” O’Malley said, according to prepared remarks from his campaign.

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, with 90 intentional homicides reported per 100,000 people per year, according to a 2013 UN study. Guatemala and El Salvador are also in the top five most deadly countries, all of which are in Central America and the Caribbean. By comparison, the U.S. murder rate is around 3, and Mexico’s is around 20.

Update: Bernie Sanders has also come out in support of TPS for these migrants.

Temporary Protective Status provides time-bound permission to live and work in the U.S. based on adverse situations in the immigrant's home country such as a natural disaster. Unlike residency it doesn’t offer a pathway to citizenship. Critics of TPS argue that the deportation relief is continuously renewed.

O’Malley attended the Nevada dinner along with rival candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Sanders has condemned the ICE raids saying that the U.S. should “take steps to protect children and families seeking refuge here, not cast them out.” Clinton voiced “real concerns” about the raids, and has been less critical of the Obama administration’s handling of the cases.

The Nevada dinner was hosted by outgoing Sen. Harry Reid, a pioneer in Latino vote-getting. Unlike other early primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa, Nevada has a population highly representative of the nation as a whole, including a large number of Latino voters.

All three candidates are investing heavily in field staff and advertising across the state.

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