Roaring Fork Valley Dreamers say court decision buys time to solve immigration issue
Dreamers throughout the Roaring Fork Valley celebrated Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that prevents dismantling of the DACA program and the potential deporting of hundreds of thousands of people, at least temporarily.
“We didn’t know which way it was going to swing,” Janeth Niebla of New Castle said of the court’s decision. “A lot of us are crying tears of joy today.”
Niebla is a co-founder and board member of Voces Unidas de las Montañas, a nonprofit organization created by Latinos for Latinos, and on the steering committee of a program it created called Dreamers Rise.
Dreamers Rise lobbied in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA. President Obama created the program in 2012. It allows young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to apply for a temporary status that allows them to work and prevents them from being deported. Recipients must reapply every two years.
President Trump vowed in 2017 to terminate the program, which he said was illegal executive amnesty for young immigrants.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration did not meet procedural requirements for ending the program. The ruling leaves the long-term status of DACA program and its recipients up in the air.
Alex Sanchez, co-founder and managing director of Voces Unidas de las Montañas said his organization isn’t sure how many DACA recipients reside from Aspen to Parachute. In Colorado, there are an estimated 15,000 to 17,000 DACA recipients or Dreamers. There are an estimated 700,000 in the country.
“We do know a lot of them live in our communities.” Sanchez said.
The Roaring Fork Valley’s Latino population includes a number of recent immigrants, and many of the families brought young children.
“They know no other country other than America,” Sanchez said.
Many of them have grown up to be “young, bright, educated people” who are creating opportunities for themselves and serving in vital roles in their towns and cities, he said.
Niebla moved to the U.S. from Mexico as a 9-year-old and has made the Roaring Fork Valley home for 24 years. She graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 2004, from Colorado Mountain College with an Associate of Arts degree in 2006 and from the University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in communications in 2010. She became a DACA recipient and works for the nonprofit organization MANUS.
Niebla said many Dreamers were nervous about the Supreme Court ruling as a decision loomed in recent weeks. The uncertainty was terrifying because they didn’t know if they would be allowed to stay in the United States any longer.
“Many people will be relieved, sleep at night and keep their jobs,” she said.
But Niebla and other Dreamers realize they still have a lot of hard work to pursue. A statement released by the steering committee of Dreamers Rise said, “While today is a clear victory for Dreamers, we know that DACA, as structured, is not a permanent fix. We need Congress to act and pass The Dream and Promise Act of 2019. This piece of legislation, which already passed the U.S. House, would provide permanent protections for more than 2 million people who have contributed to American communities for decades, including about 39,000 Coloradans.”
Sanchez said Dreamers Rise is working to encourage support for the act from Colorado’s U.S. senators, Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner. Both have seemed receptive, he said.
“We are relieved that the Supreme Court made this decision. We can’t stop with our work,” Sanchez said. “The issue is still there. We need a permanent solution.”
People can sign a petition in support of the act online at vocesunidas.org.
Niebla said Dreamers Rise members might get together via Zoom to celebrate the Supreme Court decision, but the pause won’t be long before getting back to work. A vital part of any solution is to provide a path to citizenship for current Dreamers, she said.
The timing of the Supreme Court’s decision was perfect for another Roaring Fork Valley nonprofit organization immersed in immigrant issues.
English in Action held its annual summer fundraiser via videoconference Thursday night. One of the featured speakers was Ali Noorani, a leading commentator on immigrant issues through his work with the National Immigration Forum.
In an opinion piece on Fox News shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday, Noorani wrote, “As we enter what will be a deeply divisive electoral season, at stake now is something more profound than whether Congress and the White House can strike a deal that protects Dreamers from deportation. At stake is what kind of nation we are going to be in the decades that come.”
During the fundraiser, which brought in $190,000 Thursday night, Noorani said it was Thursday was a “perfect example” of why their work is so important.
“Not just for myself but really for the country, because today was a remarkable day for the United States,” he told the virtual gathering. “Seven hundred thousand young people were protected from deportation by the Supreme Court. Millions and millions of Americans who come to know, to respect, to admire, to depend on, to love Dreamers and DACA recipients are happy. It’s an incredible day for the United States.”
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is a regular Aspen visitor and has been working with English in Action for years. During Thursday’s event she too applauded the decision.
“EIA needs every volunteer. We need doers and we need dreamers,” she told the virtual audience. “And speaking of dreamers, I was so pleased to see the Supreme Court today rule on their side. It send a very powerful messages that the soul of America is intact. We are strong. We are resilient. And we can still be a land of hope and opportunity.”
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