Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Michael Hancock addressed the press on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the executive order (known as DACA) that is set to end in the next few weeks. With it, legal statuses for thousands of young immigrants could also come to an end.
The U.S. Senate so far has failed to pass any legislation on immigration. A permanent pathway to citizenship for people with DACA status, known as Dreamers, has been a sticking point in the debate. Nearly every version of U.S. Senate immigration deals has balanced a permanent solution for the Dreamers’ status with increased border security measures, though every one has failed.
“Our Dreamers are being held hostage,” Hancock told the press. “We stand with them. It’s time for the United States President and the United States Congress to act.”
The press conference was called by FWD.US, a DACA advocacy group that hails from the tech industry and traces their founding to an interaction between Mark Zuckerberg and a Dreamer.
Among the speakers was Shiyan Zhang, a 22-year-old senior at CU Boulder who has been living under DACA status for years. The idea that her status is being used as a bargaining chip is something she’s come to know all too well.
“I really feel it,” she said. “I feel like a ping pong ball, just going back and forth.”
Zhang, who was born in China and grew up in Grand Junction, said she felt motivated to speak at events like this as a way of taking some ownership of her status.
“This whole situation, I have no control over. I don’t vote, I don’t get to say anything about my own life,” she said. Especially with federal bodies using her story in negotiations, she added, it’s been important for her to speak up.
Last month, Zhang traveled with FWD.US to Washington D.C. to speak with members congress and their staff.
“Being there was so empowering,” even if the visit didn’t sway anyone, she said.”You’re seeing me as a human, as a person, as a woman, as a student.”
But for all the empowerment, she admits she’ll still have to just wait and see what happens.
Mayor Hancock, too, has little control over the situation. His administration recently hung a banner on the City and County Building reading “DENVER ♥️IMMIGRANTS.”
Continuing to be vocal about the issues, he said, is really all anyone can do.
“To continue to stay on the same cadence, the same beat about the importance that DACA recipients play in the life of our cities,” he said, is how advocacy at the local level could spark change in Washington.