Colorado News Connection

November 13, 2017Available files: mp3 wav jpg

Young Coloradans Press Congress to Pass Dream Act

Eric Galatas

DENVER -- Colorado advocates for immigrants' rights are doubling down on efforts to press Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Some 50 activists from all corners of the state gathered in Denver over the weekend for intensive training and strategy sessions. Gabriela Flora, program director with the American Friends Service Committee, said deportations could send many young people to countries completely unfamiliar to them.

"DACA recipients arrived in the U.S. as children and have their family members here," Flora said. "[They] are part of this community, and many of them, this is the only community that they know."

The sessions in Denver forged an ambitious timeline to convince the House and Senate to include DACA protections in a must-pass government funding bill due December 8.

Flora said young people hope to build on recent efforts, including last week's silent vigil aimed at Republican Representative Scott Tipton in Pueblo, a rally at Colorado Springs City Hall, a statewide phone bank in Denver and a national student walkout.

Research from the American Immigration Council said the loss of DACA recipients could take an economic toll in Colorado. In 2016, they paid an estimated $34 million in state and local taxes. And immigrant-led households contributed over $3 billion in taxes overall in 2014.

Flora warned that deporting young people would mean even deeper losses to communities.

"But also, the incredible social costs and emotional costs of separating families that have been accelerated to even new levels under the Trump administration," she said.

In September, President Trump announced he was ending DACA - which protects more than 17,000 Coloradans and 800,000 people nationally - leaving it up to Congress to resolve the matter. Flora said reps in D.C. could learn from the leadership being demonstrated by young people across the nation.

"Who are standing up and saying, 'We are part of this community, our family members are part of this community, and we need a path to legalization,'" she said. "Because this is in the best interest of all of our community members, and our state and our country."

If Congress does not act, DACA protections are set to expire in March of 2018.