Javier Pineda has big plans. The 26-year-old Dillon resident, a paralegal, plans on taking the LSAT later this year so that he can attend law school in Colorado.
"Thanks to DACA, I've been able to work in the law office. Being able to work gives me some security and the ability to earn a little more money," says Pineda, who financially supports a five-year-old daughter.
But Pineda's dream of becoming a lawyer, and even his source of income, may be in jeopardy.
As one of over 14,000 Coloradans who came to the United States as a child without documentation and was granted work authorization under the Obama administration's Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, Pineda's permission to work in the U.S. could soon have an expiration date.
In the next few months, the Supreme Court will rule on whether Donald Trump's quick move to rescind DACA at the start of his presidency was lawful.
"There was this promise that if you work hard and do what you're supposed to do, you'll get something in return. In my situation, that's false," Pineda says.
If the Supreme Court upholds the administration's position, Pineda and over 13,000 other Coloradans could end up losing their jobs, according to new statistics from FWD.us, a lobbying group that advocates for establishing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
That 13,000 figure comes from some number-crunching regarding the estimated 14,640 DACA recipients in Colorado and the 89 percent employment rate for the 700,000 DREAMers, as they've become known, across the nation. Over 9,000 of Colorado's DACA recipients live in Denver, Aurora and Lakewood, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"When I look at those numbers, I think it’s a really good reminder, even to myself as a DACA recipient, of the impact that DACA has had on our lives for the last eight or nine years," says Marissa Molina, the Colorado state immigration manager for FWD.us.
Matthew Albence, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, recently said that his agency would start deporting DACA recipients if the Supreme Court strikes down the program. That would mean that people like Alejandro Flores-Muñoz, a thirty-year-old brought to the U.S. by his parents in 1997, could be removed from the country.
"A lot of us are now parents, a lot of us are spouses, we are breadwinners. Having this go away will definitely impact families' everyday living situations," says Flores-Muñoz, who owns his own Denver business, the Stokes Poké food truck.
While states like California and Texas, which have the largest populations of DREAMers, would be hit hardest, Colorado's economy would also lose out, as documented and undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes every year and also spend billions on goods.
"The way the Supreme Court decides is going to have a really deep impact on a lot of people who are key members of our community," says Molina.
With DACA in limbo, Colorado politicians have been effusive in their support for DREAMers.
"These are great residents of the City and County of Denver," Mayor Michael Hancock said during a November 2019 rally. "We stand by them in court and we stand by them in the streets of Denver, Colorado."
The City of Denver recently published informational fliers for DACA recipients. But Hancock and other political leaders in the state are limited in what they can do.
"There is no state substitute for DACA. The state has no legal authority to provide residency and work permits," Governor Jared Polis said, also in November 2019, during a call with reporters.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.