Commentary

It’s time to protect all of Colorado’s Dreamers

Congress must provide a path to citizenship for young immigrants like me

September 30, 2021 4:45 am

DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18, 2020, in Washington, D.C. On The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, denied the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

When you move past the rhetoric, the debate over immigration reform is complex, and it requires careful nuance that accounts for the myriad of experiences that immigrants have as they come to this country. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is a perfect example. While DACA has given thousands of immigrants the deportation protections and education and work authorizations it promised, it unfortunately has failed to protect people like me.

I am a Dreamer. Dreamers are young immigrants who came to the United States as children with their parents. My mother and I came to the United States in search of a better life when I was just 10 years old. I remember my excitement for my future and expectations for my life as an “American” during that time. Although I love my life in the U.S., the reality has been much more complicated.

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The DACA program, which was intended to protect Dreamers like me, is not a perfect solution to the immigration crisis and has allowed many Dreamers to fall through the cracks. Unfortunately, I fall into that group of Dreamers unable to apply for or receive DACA status due to arbitrary deadlines and restrictions imposed by lawmakers in Washington.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a teacher. I’ve always been a model student and have had a distinct admiration for all of my teachers and professors. As I pursue a degree in early childhood education from Metropolitan State University of Denver, I am excited but anxious about my future, because without a pathway to citizenship the potential of deportation looms over every step I take in my career. As Colorado faces a teacher shortage and with someone like me more than willing to fill this void, the answer should be simple; but instead, it is incredibly complex.

As I pursue a degree in early childhood education from Metropolitan State University of Denver, I am excited but anxious about my future, because without a pathway to citizenship the potential of deportation looms over every step I take in my career.

In Colorado, the 14,000 current DACA recipients have an estimated spending power of over $400 million. Unfortunately, as it stands there are more than 50,000 undocumented rising high school seniors in America who will not be able to apply for DACA. This number is far too high when these students need protections more than ever to begin pursuing higher education and their eventual careers. So much good has already been done by those in our state who have received DACA, and I know that if the rest of the Dreamers had those same opportunities to live, work and contribute without fear, the benefits would be countless. 

We need a fair and clear pathway to earn our citizenship in order to remedy this problem. With the proper avenues in place, immigrants like me would be able to earn United States citizenship like we have always dreamed of. The Dream Act and other immigration reform avenues like reconciliation present optimal avenues to provide Dreamers with an earned pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

Like most other Americans, I just want to be able to follow my passions and build a better life for myself and my family. We are taught throughout our lives that working hard will get you to where you want to go, but for Dreamers like me, that isn’t true. No matter how hard I work, and no matter how otherwise qualified I am to accomplish great things, something as arbitrary as my immigration status causes me to fall just short of my dreams.

This needs to change.

Dreamers deserve better, and it’s time for Congress, including Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, to make that happen by providing us with an earned pathway to citizenship and exploring all avenues to do so.

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