There are 14,520 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in Colorado alone, which does not even cover the young immigrants who were unable to receive DACA this year for a variety of reasons. Undocumented youth make up an integral part of our Colorado communities.
Due to the inconsistency and uncertainty of the DACA program, these young immigrants have been in limbo for far too long. I have personally felt an immense amount of uncertainty about my future during these last few months of COVID-19, and because of this I am able to empathize with a feeling of not knowing what is around the corner.
Unfortunately, the uncertainty of these past few months cannot compare to the amount of uncertainty our immigrant youth have had to deal with throughout their lives. Immigrant youth have been at the whim of our constantly shifting political environment for far too long.
I truly believe that human rights are a nonpartisan issue. All humans should be treated with basic dignity and respect, and when those are called into question, our Congress should immediately take action to find solutions.
I have been organizing meetings with my members of Congress’ offices to discuss how they can best do this for undocumented immigrant youth in our communities. While my Congress members hold similar views to mine regarding immigration reform, I want to call on them to do even more.
In order to hold our legislators accountable, I joined the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s Advocacy Corps, which allows me to work with my Colorado community on urging my members of Congress to pass legislation that prioritizes the needs of undocumented immigrants. Now more than ever, we must advocate for the undocumented immigrants of Colorado through COVID relief bills and accessible pathways towards citizenship.
The American Dream and Promise Act (House Bill 6) would create a pathway towards citizenship that currently is not available through the current DACA program for many of the undocumented youth in our communities.
The DACA program ensures young immigrants are not deported, are able to work and study in the United States, and are able to obtain drivers licenses. Unfortunately, even with these features, the program still has its limits. It needs to be renewed regularly by going through a paperwork process as well as paying a $495 fine. This renewal has previously been required every two years, although recent drawbacks have resulted in this process becoming annual.
This process already requires many hurdles that might result in undocumented youth not being able to receive DACA, and with the recent developments, this restricts the opportunities of many young people who know the United States as home. The recent restrictions also mean that the government is not receiving any new applications for DACA.
House Bill 6 has passed the House and is currently sitting in the Senate. It is incredibly important to create a pathway to citizenship through passing the Dream and Promise Act within the first 100 days of the new Congress.
I am currently working with my Congress members — Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet — on finding ways to pass the Dream and Promise Act. I have been lucky in that all of my Congress members support this legislation.
While this is true for me, many of my colleagues participating in the Advocacy Corps across the country haven’t seen the same bipartisan support towards this act from their senators and representatives. Many of their senators are divided rigidly along party lines.
In a time of constant threats from the Trump administration, now, more than ever, it is incredibly important for Republicans to be taking a stance in support of the needs of immigrants. In this sense, it seems that Cory Gardner might be an exception as he has shown support for this bill. The issue is that simply promising to vote yes on House Bill 6 is not enough in Mitch McConnell’s Senate, as you can only vote yes if a measure comes to a vote.
I urge Sen. Gardner, as one of the Republicans who support this, to take a more active role by asking Sen. McConnell to bring the Dream and Promise Act to a vote in a timely fashion.
It is urgent that legislation that prioritizes the needs of undocumented youth passes Congress as soon as possible. The needs of our community members are not partisan, and those who consider the United States as home are much more than political pawns and deserve that respect.
Elliotte Enochs of Wheat Ridge is an Advocacy Corps organizer through the Friends Committee on National Legislation focusing on immigration reform in Colorado.
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