Guest column: Congress should follow Colorado’s example, protect immigrants

Marissa Molina

With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act finally signed into law and the Build Back Better Act passed in the House, Congress must continue working for the American people and support our communities across the nation. America’s immigration system hasn’t been reformed in decades and, like our nation’s infrastructure, is in desperate need of repair to protect the immigrants endangered by its failures.

As an immigrant myself, I deeply understand the fear and anxiety caused by the prospect of deportation and separation from our homes and loved ones. While patchwork, temporary solutions have offered some immigrants limited protection, failure to provide immigration relief jeopardizes Colorado’s economy, communities and families.

This reality is especially true for Dreamers, young immigrants who came to this country as children with their families. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was established in 2012 and provides many Dreamers with work and study authorizations and deportation protections.

I am a former DACA recipient and came to Glenwood Springs from Mexico when I was just 9 years old with my parents. Thanks to the opportunities made available through DACA, I was able to graduate from Fort Lewis College in Durango. Because of DACA and the obstacles it helped me overcome, I discovered my passion of supporting students and their families as they navigate the challenges that come with being an immigrant.

Today, I serve on the board of trustees at the Metropolitan State University of Denver as the first Dreamer to serve on a Colorado state board. I am incredibly proud and humbled that I’ve had the opportunity to support other immigrants and serve my community and state.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants in Colorado, such as Nayda Benitez and Monserrat Ariza have similar stories of success, including 14,000 current Colorado DACA recipients. However, despite the success of the DACA program, it has survived under near constant threat. Former President Donald Trump and his administration spent four years trying to end the program, only to be stopped repeatedly by the Supreme Court. Then again earlier this year, a judge in Texas tried to end the program despite the horrific impact ending the program would have on families across the country.

The Biden administration, in response to the judicial ruling against the program, issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on DACA. This notice, which allows the public to comment in support of protecting the DACA program, signals the administration’s commitment to protecting DACA recipients. I urge all Coloradans to take advantage of the notice’s 60-day comment period and share their support for the DACA program and the thousands of young immigrants it protects.

The comment period is a critical opportunity for Coloradans to show our at-risk immigrant friends and neighbors that we support them and stand with them in this trying time. I know from firsthand experience how powerful it is to know that you are not alone.

Personally, I am thankful that our governor, Jared Polis, who has been an incredible ally, submitted a comment in support of DACA. This past year, Gov. Polis also signed legislation to open professional licenses to immigrants and protect immigrants’ data privacy from unlawful targeting. I am incredibly grateful for his steadfast commitment to Colorado’s immigrant communities.

While the DACA comment period and the administration’s support of DACA are important, they are only temporary measures. It will take an act of Congress to pass a legislative solution that permanently protects Dreamers.

With an overwhelming and bipartisan majority of Americans supporting the passage of a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, Congress must include immigration reforms in the final budget reconciliation package, also known as the Build Back Better Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives and now awaits a vote in the Senate.

I am grateful to U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse, Jason Crow, Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter for their support of immigration relief. Their support, along with that of Gov. Polis, is an example for U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper to follow. By working together, we can secure a brighter future for Colorado’s immigrant communities, their loved ones and everyone in our state.

Marissa Molina is a former Glenwood Springs resident and director of Colorado State Immigration.

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