Gov. John Hickenlooper pleaded for mercy this morning for the roughly 17,000 young Coloradans who have been able to start careers, pay taxes and integrate more fully into American life under the DACA program.
“Congress has still yet to agree to fix our broken immigration system,” Hickenlooper said, urging the Trump administration to “maintain common sense.”
Monica Acosta, a DACA recipient and a director for Padres y Jovenes Unidos, followed with an impassioned speech that singled out Hickenlooper, who was still standing beside her, as she urged Colorado’s elected officials on to stronger action.
The time for “written statements and photo ops,” was over, she said, also singling out Republicans U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. “There is no middle ground.”
The press conference was part of a widespread reaction to reports that President Donald Trump may end DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Juan Gallegos, a DACA recipient and leader with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, told Denverite that his focus is on Republican leaders and others who have a say in national policy.
That approach may be working. The Republican speaker of the U.S. House, Paul Ryan, has asked Trump to preserve DACA while Congress works on a “fix,” as CNN reported.
The DREAM Act, re-introduced into Congress this summer, would provide a pathway to legal status for those who were brought to this country as children without the proper authorization. DACA was an executive order that’s relatively easy for Trump to undo, while the DREAM Act would be a legislative act with more staying power, if Congress can pass it and withstand a potential presidential veto. Polls show a majority of Americans favor relief for unauthorized immigrants who grew up in this country.
Salvador Hernandez, another DACA recipient and community advocate, said that he felt on Friday as if he had been transported back in time.
“A day like today reminds me of the day after the election,” he said at the press conference. The threat to DACA made him feel an “uncertainty,” that he had not felt since arriving in the United States as a child, he said.
“And I’m not going back to that,” he said. “The time has come again to organize our friends, our families, our neighbors.”
Acosta drew the loudest, most emotional response of any speaker on Friday morning. She acknowledged that she might lose the DACA papers that have granted her some degree of protection, returning her to an “undocumented” life.
“The full descriptor, however,” she said, “is undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic.”