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Many Immigrants In Mass. Wait In Limbo For The Outcome Of The Election03:55
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Votes in the presidential election are still being counted in several states across the country and, as of Friday afternoon, the race remains too close to call. It's an uncertain time for everyone.

For many immigrants in the country, uncertainty is something they've learned to live with during the Trump administration.

Irma Flores in her home in Haverhill in 2017. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Irma Flores in her home in Haverhill in 2017. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Irma Flores says the outcome of the election could very well mean the difference between keeping her family together or seeing them separated. Originally from El Salvador, she has lived in Massachusetts for almost 20 years. Flores and her family have made a life here. She works for the city of Somerville and has five grandchildren, all of them U.S. citizens.

"Physically, I feel sick. Emotionally, I'm tired of the last four years, three years, but at the same time I need to have that hope at least to continue working and to see if we can stay in this country," she said.

Flores is in the U.S. with humanitarian authorization known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The Trump administration has been trying to end TPS for several countries, a challenge that's been caught up in the courts. Former vice president Joe Biden says he wants to safeguard TPS and explore pathways to citizenship.

Flores knows there's no guarantee that'll happen if Biden wins, but, she says, at least there's hope for her and the estimated 12,000 TPS holders living in Massachusetts.

"It's a lot of people, it's a lot of lives who are [de]pending on this election."

"Physically, I feel sick. Emotionally, I'm tired of the last four years, three years, but at the same time I need to have that hope at least to continue working and to see if we can stay in this country."

Irma Flores

Another one of those people is Maria Merida.

For close to three years, she's been living in a church in Greater Boston, away from her family, trying to avoid deportation. She's currently waiting for a final decision on her asylum application — and watching the election results.

"I felt really bad, but today is a little better," Merida said in Spanish. "I felt like my head was going to explode, like I had a really bad cold but it wasn't that, it's just nerves."

Merida thinks about what it'd be like to move around freely again — to go for a walk and to cook dinner for her sons. She says she can't imagine continuing to live the way she's been living, no matter the outcome of the election.

"Well, up until now nothing is known for sure. We're still concerned, there's no security, not yet. And that's the worry a lot of us have and we're depending on just keeping an eye on the TV to see what's happening," she said.

Maria Merida has been living in “sanctuary” in a Boston-area church for years now. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Maria Merida has been living in “sanctuary” in a Boston-area church for years now. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Others are trying their best to avoid getting caught up in the news cycle. Twenty-two-year-old Estefany Pineda is instead focused on her studies.

"This week has been so stressful cause it has taken my mind off school a little bit and I have so much going on with school so it's, like, a lot. But as a DACA recipient, if Donald Trump wins the election, then that means he can go ahead and try to end the program again," she said.

Pineda is a senior at UMass Boston and the completion of her schooling depends largely on her immigration status. Pineda was born in El Salvador and came to the U.S. with her mom when she was a child.

"If the current administration stays, we have to keep fighting. And even with a new administration, [we need] to hold it accountable as well and to keep on fighting for things that are not right."

Estefany Pineda

Now, she's able to study and work as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. There are approximately 6,000 DACA recipients in the state. The Trump administration tried to dismantle the program but the Supreme Court in June ruled against the president. Trump has signaled he'd try again to end DACA if reelected.

"Things could go either way right now. If the current administration stays, we have to keep fighting. And even with a new administration, [we need] to hold it accountable as well and to keep on fighting for things that are not right."

No matter who ends up in the White House, Pineda says, there's still more work to be done.

Related:

Shannon Dooling Twitter Reporter
Shannon Dooling is an immigration reporter at WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station.

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