Roaring Fork Valley activists hopeful about Senate immigration reform bill |

Roaring Fork Valley activists hopeful about Senate immigration reform bill

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Two Roaring Fork Valley immigration activists — one a founder of AJUA (Association of Youths United in Action) and the other an immigration attorney active in immigrant-rights issues — said on Thursday they are hopeful that an immigration-reform bill now before the U.S. Senate can help keep families and communities together.

The Senate bill, sponsored by a bipartisan group of eight senators, passed out of a Senate committee on May 21 and is headed for a full debate on the Senate floor.

But both Alex Alvarado, 20, of Carbondale, and attorney Jennifer Smith said they remain vaguely worried that the Senate version may end up being diluted by hostile amendments or simply ignored in favor of an expected competing version from the U.S. House of Representatives.

House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday announced that the Senate version, if passed, will never make it through the Republican-controlled House.

“Personally, I’m just really excited about how this conversation is actually moving,” said Alvarado, who was instrumental in the creation of the AJUA youth organization in 2010. “Actually, it’s not a conversation any more, it’s an action.”

In particular, he said, he is glad to see that the Senate version contains language to create “a pathway to citizenship” for illegal immigrants who have lived for long periods in the U.S. and have raised children here.

“I’m just scared that the House will want to have its own bill and just forget about the Senate bill,” Alvarado said.

He noted that under current immigration law there is no pathway to citizenship, and that families and communities often are separated by deportation policies, including “people that don’t deserve to be deported” such as parents who are undocumented themselves but have raised children who were born here and are bona fide citizens.

“With the system right now, it’s really a quick thing to split up families,” Alvarado lamented.

For example, he said, if an undocumented father is summoned into court on a minor offense and fails to appear at some point in the lengthy judicial process, he can find himself under arrest and facing deportation and separation from his family for what otherwise would be a relatively unimportant matter.

Alvarado, who is undocumented, currently is classified under what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency calls a “deferred action,” meaning he is not likely to face deportation unless he commits a serious criminal act.

He has lived in the U.S. for almost all of his life, starting when his parents brought him here at the age of 2 years and 5 months.

He currently is approaching graduation from Colorado Mountain College, where he is working toward an associate’s degree in the Spanish language.

He also is working as a paralegal at Smith’s law office.

Smith was reluctant to say too much about the Senate bill, which already has been altered by numerous amendments.

But, she said, “What I see that I really like is that the Senate version so far seems to be a more comprehensive, reasonable approach to immigration.”

She conceded that immigration, as a broad issue, is “inordinately complicated and connected to so many things” that it cannot easily be fit into a single legislative package, but she maintained that the Senate bill is a good effort.

“Granted, it’s not perfect,” she added. “There are things I don’t like, sure, but I also understand that it is a bipartisan process, and it will be a bicameral [produced by two legislative bodies] process. I prefer to look at the bigger picture, so to speak, and I’m, as they say, cautiously optimistic.”

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