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Opinion Columns

Opinion: Colorado’s students deserve better — pass protections for Dreamers

As a former educator, this time of the year reminds me of preparing my classroom to welcome my students for the new school year.

It reminds me of the excitement with which my students would look forward to what they would learn in the months ahead.

Marissa Molina

While I am no longer teaching and will not be preparing a classroom with new bulletin boards or name tags, I am thinking of how we as Coloradans will prepare our classrooms and schools to create opportunities for our immigrant students. 

I am proud to say that here in Colorado, we have taken our students’ access to education seriously. Our state has long been a leader in protecting students’ right to access quality education, regardless of their immigration status.

Our legislators have enacted smart policies like the “Advancing Students for a Stronger Tomorrow” or ASSET bill, which grants undocumented students access to in-state tuition, and HB 19-1196, which grants them access to state financial aid after previously only having access to the Colorado Opportunity Fund. 

These policies are more than just symbols; they are wise choices that honor the potential and promise of all of Colorado’s students. They also recognize the simple fact that when we invest in young people who call Colorado home, our entire state will benefit.

Colorado has done our part in ensuring that our students, regardless of immigration status, will be prepared to lead and meet the challenges of tomorrow. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

While I am immensely proud of the progress our state has made, I am also thinking of the nearly 1,000 undocumented Colorado students who graduated high school this past May without protections.

Following the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program nearly two years ago on Sept. 5, 2017, these students continue to face an uncertain future and are at risk of deportation and separation from their jobs, communities and families due to congressional inaction.

With the Supreme Court agreeing to take up arguments over the DACA program this November, potentially determining the fate of the program and its recipients, it is more urgent than ever that Congress finally protect them.

Court injunctions have temporarily kept the program intact, but these limited protections could end at any time.

Now is the time for Congress to follow Colorado’s example, take action and pass permanent protections for Dreamers that prevent them from being separated from their state and from the only country they have ever known.

When DACA recipients are protected, they will not only go to college and graduate, they will be equipped to continue thriving and contributing to our communities for many years to come.

Congress has an obligation to get this right. For far too long, Congress has promised to protect Dreamers and ensure that they are never separated from the only home they have ever known.

The good news is that there is a viable solution. The historic Dream and Promise Act (HR 6), which passed the House of Representatives on an overwhelming and bipartisan basis, is currently waiting for a vote in the Senate. There is no reason for the delay — protections are needed now. 

I look to U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet to continue to work in a bipartisan manner to finally get this done. Only then will all our students be able to fulfill their dreams and potential. 

Marissa Molina is a Denver-based Dreamer and former teacher.