DACA supporters rally in Glenwood Springs

Ryan Summerlin
Colorado Mountain College students Guadalupe Morales, Fernando Ramos and Raquel Vasquez chat before the start of the DACA Rally held on Grand Avenue in fron of Glenwood Springs High School on Dec. 4, 2017.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

Young, undocumented immigrants and their supporters rallied outside of Glenwood Springs High School Tuesday as part of a statewide week of demonstrations pushing Congress to pass the Dream Act.

It’s now halfway through the six-month enforcement delay that President Donald Trump gave Congress when in September he rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA is an Obama-era protection of young immigrants brought illegally into the U.S. as children. That six months is the time frame that Congress has to pass legislation to protect those now-vulnerable DACA recipients, and immigration advocates hope the Dream Act of 2017 will be the solution.

Advocates at these rallies are calling on Congress to pass a “clean Dream Act” – meaning clean of other attached legislative agendas, such as the president’s border wall.

Dreamers do not deserve to be used as a bargaining chip, said Junior Ortega, a Garfield County employee and DACA recipient who’s been active as a local immigrant advocate.

“No more money for more border security, no more money for more immigration enforcement, and no more money for a stupid wall,” Alan Muñoz shouted at the rally.

Advocates in Glenwood Springs specifically aimed their message at Rep. Scott Tipton, who represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. Tipton is also scheduled to have a staff member at the Garfield County administration building today, from 2 to 4 p.m.

“We are calling on Congressman Scott Tipton to show moral fortitude, leadership and courage to stand with us for the youth and future of the Roaring Fork Valley’s economic, social and cultural communities,” said Ortega.

At the Glenwood Rally, several Dreamers told the crowd their stories of being raised in the U.S., where their families are rooted and set on a career path that’s now being yanked out from under them. One young woman said her dream has always been to be a nurse, “but my dream is currently on hold.” After studying for two years as a full-time student to meet the requirements of a nursing program, “I was told I couldn’t apply to the program because of my nationality.”

Ruth and David Sante, from Rifle, said they were attending the rally “to support our immigrants and our DACA students.” David, who runs a construction company, said he works with several people with children who are Dreamers. “One person I know, his son would like to go to college, but now he’s deciding not to because he’s afraid he’s going to get deported.”

When asked what he’d like Tipton to hear, David said, “Immigrants are what America is all about. We’ve all been immigrants. And if you want our economy to grow you need that population.”

The rallies across Colorado were a buildup toward a bigger event in Washington D.C. Twenty-three immigrant advocates from Colorado will today join a mass public demonstration at the Capitol to push Congress to pass the Dream Act. Organizations including Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition also want to use the occasion to push for permanent residency for immigrants who were granted temporary protected status, such as those fleeing humanitarian crises.

“The event will be marked as the largest act of civil disobedience organized by immigrant groups in the history of the movement,” according to CIRC.

“The goal of these actions will be to disrupt business as usual at the Capitol, and say that this cannot wait and you cannot play games with people’s lives,” said CIRC’s Sophia Clark.

In early November, Ortega went to D.C. for a demonstration at the Capitol that drew hundreds of undocumented young people calling for Congress to pass the Dream Act.

“It was an intense event, an amazing experience I’ll never forget,” he said Tuesday. He joined hundreds of Dreamers who flooded into the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building. “When you looked up there were floors and floors of people.”

During the demonstration the building erupted with chants: “What do we want? Dream Act!” From an upper floor in the atrium, demonstrators unfurled a large banner that read “CONGRESS WE DEMAND A CLEAN DREAM ACT NOW.”

Ortega had never participated in a mass demonstration like this. The atmosphere was exciting yet nerve wracking, he said, as he was uncertain what might happen. Dreamers usually try to stay under the radar and avoid causing problems, he said.

“It was emotional to see all those people, how many were there and willing to be arrested to demonstrate the urgency [of this bill]. I was speechless,” he said.

If signed into law, the Dream Act would protect young immigrants who were brought into the U.S. illegally when they were children. The act would provide a pathway to permanent residency and then citizenship to these young immigrants.

So far, Dream Act bills in the House of Representatives and Senate have been referred to committees, both controlled by Republicans. The question hanging in the air is whether this is a bipartisan enough issue to clear those committees.

A better shot in the House, said Clark, is getting a “discharge petition” passed. If it garners enough legislators’ signatures, such a petition would allow these bill to bypass the committee and go straight to a vote on the House floors.

“That would actually give it a chance, a much better chance,” Clark said. “And that’s also why we’re working hard to get Rep. Scott Tipton’s support, because we need Republican legislators to take leadership now, like Sen. Cory Gardner has. The more they can be leaders within their own party, the better chance we have.”

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