Five Colorado DREAMers Head to D.C. to Lobby for DACA

Marco Dorado, profiled by Westword in March, is one of five Colorado DREAMers headed to Washington, D.C., this week to ask members of Congress to pass the DREAM Act to protect nearly 800,000 DACA recipients in the U.S. who've been in limbo since the Trump administration pulled the plug on the program last month.

Sponsored by the tech-industry immigration reform group FWD.us, 100 DACA recipients from 25 states studying and working in education, engineering, medicine, science, social advocacy and other fields will participate in the trip. All of them, according to FWD, are active in their communities as mentors, in local churches and on sports teams.

Dorado, a graduate of Thornton High School and the University of Colorado Boulder, came out of the shadows to study and work legally when former president Barack Obama implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012. But now President Trump is ending the program on March 5, putting the onus on Congress to pass legislation such as the DREAM Act, or Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.

The bipartisan Lindsey Graham-Dick Durbin Senate bill would basically make DACA the law of the land, protecting immigrant children brought here illegally at a young age and allowing them to work and study legally while pursuing a path to citizenship.

“It’s critical that we get the support of our Colorado congressional delegation for a commonsense piece of legislation that addresses so many issues both for the government and for those of us who stand to be impacted,” Dorado says, referring to more than 17,000 Colorado DACA recipients. “The DREAM Act will finally codify what so many of us have been working toward for so long: recognition of our lives as Americans and what we already are, even if in name only.”

Colorado senators Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican, have both signed on as co-sponsors of the current version of the DREAM Act, which has been kicking around Congress in one form or another since 2001.

Even if the bill makes it out of the Senate, it's likely to face a tougher test in the House, where Republicans will no doubt try to tie it to funding for Trump’s border-wall campaign promise. Republican U.S. Representative Mike Coffman supports the DREAM Act, but other Colorado House Republicans in less diverse districts may take more of a hard-line stance.

Representative Scott Tipton, a Republican who represents most of the state’s Western Slope, says Obama “circumvented the Constitution” with his DACA executive order, and he applauds the Trump administration’s adherence to the rule of law. But he also adds that there needs to be some compassion shown toward DREAMers.

“While I do not support the unilateral DACA program,” Tipton says, “I believe Congress must act to develop a compassionate and commonsense solution for the children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents. These individuals have grown up in the United States and are now upstanding, valued members of our communities. They should not be punished for a decision that was made by their parents years ago.”

Two DREAMers from Tipton’s 3rd Congressional District — Marissa Molina from Glenwood Springs and Claudia Garcia from Telluride — will join Dorado for the FWD.us event in Washington. Dorado says fostering bipartisanship is the key to passing the DREAM Act.

“Much like ASSET — the [2013 college] in-state tuition bill in Colorado for undocumented Coloradans — it's going to take political will and understanding from Republicans to move this legislation along,” Dorado says.

Marco Dorado and a handful of DREAMers are heading to Washington, D.C., to convince legislators to pass the DREAM Act.
Marco Dorado and a handful of DREAMers are heading to Washington, D.C., to convince legislators to pass the DREAM Act.

Beyond the DREAM Act, Dorado says, overall immigration reform is the goal, because DREAMers don’t exist in a vacuum. They have friends and family members with a wide variety of legal statuses living and working productively in communities across Colorado and the country.

“We must continue to fight to defend DACA and now pass the DREAM Act, while also fighting for comprehensive immigration reform that addresses other undocumented immigrants, especially now when the Trump administration and DHS [Homeland Security] have begun a ruthless crackdown on the immigrant community,” Dorado adds.

FWD.us also recently declared today, October 5, a national DACA Day of Action, urging people to call members of Congress and push for the passage of the DREAM Act.

“Support for a legislative solution like the bipartisan DREAM Act is growing across the country, from new polls showing 86 percent of the American people support protecting DREAMers to high-profile Representative Joe Barton [a Republican from Texas] signing on to the bill,” says Alida Garcia, director of coalitions and policy for FWD.us. “But we need to keep the pressure on every member of Congress to pass the DREAM Act now.”

Update: Dorado and the other Colorado DREAMers spent Wednesday, October 4, meeting with some members of Colorado's congressional delegation, with varying degrees of success. They were able to meet in person with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, but Republican Sen. Cory Gardner was unavailable. On the House side, they met with Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and briefly with Democratic Ed Perlmutter, and they also attended a press conference with DREAM Act Senate sponsors Graham and Durbin.

According to Marissa Molina, a Fort Lewis College graduate and now a community engagement manager with Rocky Mountain Prep charter schools in Denver and Aurora, the group had hoped to meet with Republican Rep. Scott Tipton, whose district includes most of the Western Slope, including her hometown of Glenwood Springs. But they weren't able to connect. A 25-year-old DACA recipient honored by the White House in 2015 as a "Champion of Change," Molina says Coffman emphasized the DACA solution must be bipartisan and that any bill will likely have to include increased border security.

"What [Coffman] shared with us is that he want to make sure that whatever bill gets voted on has that aspect of border security without the internal enforcement of more ICE raids and all of that," Molina says, adding the group is "so grateful for Rep. Coffman's leadership and support of DREAMers."

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