As the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to uphold the Trump administration's plan to rescind the DACA program, Governor Jared Polis says Colorado is limited in what it can do to protect DREAMers if the program is ended.
"They will have no protection from the federal government taking deportation action," Polis said during a press call about DACA today, November 14. "There is no state substitute for DACA. The state has no legal authority to provide residency and work permits."
On November 12, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case involving the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Multiple national media outlets, such as Reuters, have reported that it appears the court is split along party lines, with the conservative majority siding with the Trump administration and the liberal minority against it. The court's decision, which would determine the fate of approximately 700,000 immigrants brought here as children, could come as early as January 2020.
But while Polis admits that Colorado is limited in what it can do to prevent deportation of the 15,000 DACA recipients here, the governor notes that the state government could help with legal aid for those at risk. Immigrant-rights advocates and civil-rights attorneys say that providing legal aid to DACA recipients in Colorado would be a significant protection.
"When the governor talks about legal aid, that’s going to be a huge issue, because most immigrants don’t have access to legal aid," said Sergio Gonzales, deputy director of Immigration Hub, which organized the press call. Legal representation in immigration court significantly increases someone's chances of winning their case.
Denise Maes, public-policy director at the ACLU of Colorado, stressed on the call that a legal defense fund for DACA recipients would offer a major protection. "We do intend to push a little bit on that note," Maes said in reference to nudging the state legislature to approve funding for legal aid to DACA recipients if the program is rescinded.
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"We also would like to see the state make very clear that notification and cooperation between ICE and state agencies and/or local law enforcement would be prohibited," Maes added.
A bill passed by the state legislature during the last legislative session banned local law enforcement from holding on to immigrant detainees based solely on a "detainer" request lodged by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After pushback from the governor's office, the final version of the bill did not ban local law enforcement agencies from striking cooperative agreements with ICE to assist in deportation processing.
Gonzales, Maes and Polis said that they'd be pushing members of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
"On the political front, I will be urging our Republican and Democratic members of Congress to take action," Polis said.