Immigration reformers rally for permanent solution amid continued DACA limbo
Karla Reyes and Martha Nila were both just 2 years old when their families brought them to the United States. Although several years separate them in age, their stories are similar.
Neither knows a home other than the United States, but both now face an uncertain future — again.
Reyes, a preschool teacher from Carbondale who’s now studying at Colorado Mountain College, was able to benefit from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) six years ago.
The executive order by then-President Barack Obama allowed her to get a Social Security number and work legally in the United States without facing deportation.
Her ultimate hope was permanent legislation that would give her a clear path to formal citizenship.
That never happened.
Now Nila faces similar worries that it will not happen in time to help her before she graduates high school next year.
Unlike Reyes, Nila, a senior at Glenwood Springs High School, will not be able to apply for DACA protection when she turns 18. The program was suspended when President Donald Trump moved to rescind the order in 2017.
Previous DACA recipients can renew their status, but no new applications are being taken.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments related to DACA on Tuesday, and is set to decide by next summer whether Trump has the authority to rescind the order. That would effectively end the program, leaving nearly 700,000 young immigrants in limbo.
“If DACA’s gone, then I would definitely not be able to continue working,” said Reyes, who joined a rally in Glenwood Springs Tuesday night sponsored by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition in support of continuing DACA and passing permanent legislation to protect so-called “Dreamers.”
“Dreamers” is the name given DACA-eligible immigrants — younger immigrants who came illegally to the United States as children — who would benefit under the proposed Dream and Promise Act that would provide a path to citizenship.
Reyes teaches in the Valley Settlement Project’s El Busesito mobile preschool program, which helps Latino children who don’t have other preschool options.
“It makes me feel fulfilled, and if I don’t have the opportunity to do that I don’t know what I’ll do,” Reyes, 24, said.
“I was brought here when I was 2, and have lived here 15 years now,” Nila, who was invited to speak at the rally, said. “From the beginning, I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work to have a dream to have a home here, or anything.”
Without legislation to provide citizenship for Dreamers, ending DACA would be devastating, Nila said.
“I don’t want to complain about any disadvantages I might have because of my immigration status, but I know that having DACA would have opened a lot of doors for me,” she said.
Mateo Lozano, mountain regional organizer for Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, led the rally.
“I’m a DACA recipient myself, and so many of my family members and friends are affected by this situation,” he said. “We need politicians to act and to pass legislation that gives us something permanent.”
Glenwood Springs immigration attorney Jennifer Smith noted that three-quarters of Americans indicate they support legislation to provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.
“We need our legislators to stop using these young immigrants as political tools for election talking points, and do their jobs to pass laws that their constituents support,” she said.
Opponents of the proposed legislation say the law rewards people for breaking the law, encourages illegal immigration and decreases wages of American workers. Trump ordered an end to DACA in 2017, but federal courts in different states blocked him from ending it immediately. The Trump administration argues the program is unlawful because former President Barack Obama did not have the authority to adopt it in the first place.
Video: Live from the Glenwood Springs rally
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