Guest commentary: Rise up to protect Dreamers
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has changed the lives of thousands of people across the country and the Roaring Fork Valley. Established in 2012, DACA allowed certain qualified young people to apply for and receive work authorization and protection from deportation. DACA not only provides opportunities to earn college degrees, own homes and cars, and get jobs, the program also allows us to live freely, to step out of the shadows and dream.
In Colorado, DACA has been life-changing for the nearly 15,000 recipients, with positive impacts felt across the state. According to the Center for American Progress, DACA participants contribute more than $59 million in state and local taxes and $113 million in federal taxes. In addition, more than 4,300 DACA recipients in Colorado are working in occupations at the forefront of the COVID-19 response.
For me, the Roaring Fork Valley has been my home for the past 24 years. I graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 2004, long before there was in-state tuition for undocumented students and protections under DACA.
Being a Dreamer, a term used to describe those who came to this country as young children, meant that I would face challenges in college and after. But that never deterred me from working hard. I graduated from Colorado Mountain College with an Associate of Arts degree in 2006, and from the University of Denver in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in communications.
Now, thanks to DACA, I work for one of the best nonprofits in the valley, MANAUS, helping to lead our community organizing and human-centered design efforts. I also am one of the founders of Voces Unidas de las Montañas, the first organization created by Latinos for Latinos in the valley.
But the future of Dreamers and the DACA program remain uncertain. The Trump administration tried to end the program in 2017 and soon the Supreme Court will decide the fate of DACA, and the protections that have allowed Dreamers to thrive for the past eight years. This looming court decision weighs heavily in our minds and hearts, all while our lives and livelihoods are being threatened by a global health crisis.
Like the undocumented youth who fought for the protections under DACA, we must continue to fight for a permanent solution that honors every single Dreamer.
To the Dreamers: You are not alone. I see you. I know that it has been a lonely and emotionally devastating journey to get where we are today. Together we can unite and build a community of support for each other where we listen and guide each other through whatever comes next. Join the Dreamers Rise campaign and help create the change that we want to see for ourselves and our families.
To the parents of Dreamers: I want you to know that every sacrifice that you have made for your children will not be in vain and your prayers will be answered. As parents, continue to tell lawmakers that if they fight for Dreamers, Dreamers will fight for this nation.
To our allies: We need you now more than ever. As political uncertainties and Supreme Court decisions threaten DACA, the protections that have allowed us to thrive for the past eight years may disappear. It is time to demand better from elected officials and hold them accountable for using DACA recipients as bargaining chips for hateful policies that do not represent the values of this country. Join us and take action to protect Dreamers.
Rise up and join Dreamers Rise, a local campaign created and led by Dreamers, to support each other and build a movement to advocate for long-term solutions.
Text the word “Dream” to the number 77948 to sign up. Together, we will find our strength as Dreamers and as a community.
Janeth Niebla is a co-founder and board member of Voces Unidas de las Montañas and works as project director at MANAUS. She also is a DACA recipient.