Guest commentary: We can’t afford to wait: It’s time to protect DACA recipients | AspenTimes.com
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Guest commentary: We can’t afford to wait: It’s time to protect DACA recipients

Marissa Molina
Guest commentary

Sadly, it’s no secret that our state and nation are facing immense uncertainty amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. For myself and the nearly 15,000 Coloradan Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipients like me, this season of uncertainty is only exacerbated due to the looming Supreme Court decision which will determine our fate in the U.S.

These compounding issues are burdensome, because while our state has made many strides in its support for the immigrant community, before and during this ongoing crisis, there is still so much more to be done.

When I was 9 years old, my family and I came from Mexico to Colorado. Being undocumented, however, posed many challenges. Thankfully, the DACA program established in 2012 allowed me to apply for and receive deportation protections and work authorizations, giving me the opportunity to finish college and alleviating many other obstacles.

Unfortunately, in 2017, the Trump administration terminated the DACA program. Since then, lawsuits have temporarily preserved the program in a limited manner.

These injunctions made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and justices heard arguments on the case, which will determine the program’s future in November. The court is still issuing opinions, meaning a ruling determining the fate of the thousands of DACA recipients living across the country could still come at any time.

Thanks to DACA, after graduating from a Colorado college, I became a Denver-area Spanish teacher and now work to support and advocate for our immigrant community every day. Recently, I was also appointed to the board of trustees at Metropolitan State University of Denver by Gov. Jared Polis, becoming the first undocumented person to be named to a state board.

As evidenced by my story, DACA has provided myself and other young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children with the opportunity to create lives for ourselves and our families. All without the threat of deportation — for now.

Should the Supreme Court rule against the program without permanent legislative protections in place, we will be at risk of deportation. In addition to these fears, DACA recipients also are grappling with the added burden of renewing their protections and U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) office closures due to COVID-19. Like our fellow Americans, many DACA recipients are also facing job insecurity, greater financial strain, and loved ones at risk of harm.

This comes as Acting Director of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Matt Albence has confirmed that the Department of Homeland Security is preparing to deport Dreamers if the Supreme Court ends DACA.

Terminating the DACA program and deporting Dreamers like me would be an unquestioned disaster and humanitarian tragedy. Communities would be torn apart. Families would be broken. And our economy would suffer — all at a time when we should be coming together in response to the coronavirus pandemic and when we’ll need Dreamers’ contributions more than ever.

While we anxiously await the Supreme Court’s decision, it is important to prepare.

For DACA recipients, this means renewing your status while you can.

We don’t know what the future may hold, so I encourage other DACA recipients to consult with an attorney about renewing your DACA status if you are eligible. For additional information and resources, I recommend you visit http://www.InformedImmigrant.com.

For community and business leaders, this means supporting the DACA recipients around you by encouraging them to renew and calling on our elected officials to act.

Dreamers are teachers like myself. They’re also small business owners, manufacturers, health care professionals and more. If the nearly 15,000 DACA recipients in Colorado were removed, our state would lose the nearly $60 million in state and local taxes that we pay annually and $527 million in annual spending.

Gov. Polis is leading the way in standing up for our state’s Dreamers during this crisis and I thank him for his efforts. In late March, he sent a letter calling for the automatic renewal of DACA protections for program recipients whose status expires this year.

But to address this once and for all, Congress must pass permanent legislative protections for Dreamers. Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan American Dream and Promise Act and now it’s the Senate’s job to act, including Colorado’s own Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner who have previously pledged their support for Dreamers.

With an imminent ruling from the Supreme Court hanging over Dreamers’ heads and the COVID-19 uncertainty, DACA recipients urgently need to renew their status and Congress must pass permanent protections. It’s what’s best for Colorado, especially during this time of crisis.

Marissa Molina is the Colorado state director of FWD.us, which is a bipartisan political organization that addresses immigration and criminal justice issues. She is also a DACA recipient.


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