Summit County, high in the beautiful mountains of central Colorado, is my home. Over the last 25 years, my rural, resort-town community, like the rest of Colorado, experienced an influx of foreign-born migrants.
Like countless immigrants before them, they came to America with the dream of making a better life for themselves and their families.
During this time, I’ve had the good fortune to work side by side with immigrants from all over the world, but especially from Mexico and the rest of Latin America.
I have seen, first-hand, how they have contributed to the strong growth of our local economies. I have seen how we have benefited from their strong work ethic and love of family, and how their culture has enriched the cultural life of our communities.
Some of these immigrants were children when they arrived. They are the residents of Colorado who are Dreamers, the name for the young people who have been a part of our communities since they were brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were children.
Over 17,000 of Colorado’s Dreamers have received the limited protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, allowing them to work legally and pursue opportunities in higher education.
The DACA program, however, is temporary; it is tied up in the federal courts; and it could end at any time.
A long-term solution, which can only come from the U.S. Congress, must be found. If it is not, then despite growing up as our neighbors, graduating from our elementary, middle and high schools, and being American in every way, the Dreamers will remain at risk of deportation and separation from their families.
They will remain without a pathway to citizenship and without hope for the future.
They are young people like Lu, Mateo, Zuleyma, and Javier, who bravely tell their stories in words and video.
Mountain Dreamers encourages all Coloradans to listen to the stories of the Dreamers, and get to know them better. Yes, better, because you know them already, you may just not be aware of it. You’ve met them at your child’s school, where they teach. They were your nurse at the hospital; they served you in a restaurant; they built your house; they were your daughter’s college friend you met last weekend.
Colorado Dreamers contribute $32 million in Colorado state and local taxes every year (despite having no say at the ballot box on how their taxes are spent) and have a total spending power of almost $420 million. Many are also parents to U.S. citizen children of their own.
An overwhelming majority of Americans of all political views, in poll after poll, support a solution for America’s young Dreamers. Yet we have failed, for 17 years, to solve the problem (The DREAM Act was first proposed in the U.S. Congress in 2001).
On June 4, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Dream and Promise Act of 2019. This law would give conditional legal status, and a pathway to citizenship, for our nation’s more than 2 million Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders.
Now the U.S. Senate, including our own Colorado senators, Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, have the opportunity to show strong leadership — leadership that will be remembered and celebrated for generations to come — by acting on the will of the large majority of their constituents in Colorado and the U.S., and passing legislation providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.
Colorado’s Dreamers, and their families, deserve our action to secure their futures. If they have the opportunity, Dreamers will continue to contribute to our communities and economy and pursue their dreams.
For their sakes, and ours, Mountain Dreamers urges all Coloradans to join us in supporting our friends, colleagues and classmates: the Dreamers.
Peter Bakken is the Executive Director of Mountain Dreamers, a Summit County-based organization supporting the Colorado mountain region’s immigrant workforce and their families.