My story begins in Chihuahua, Mexico. I was fortunate enough to be born to parents who had the courage to leave one land behind in search of a home where safety, opportunity and freedom could be found.
That story is not unlike the millions of immigrant Americans who accepted the challenge of migration to seek the promise of a better life, but that life — the American dream — can be unattainable under the current immigration system.
During the summer, I had the opportunity to share the harmful impacts of our broken immigration system with the staff of Sen. John Hickenlooper. During this discussion with Sen. Hickenlooper’s staff, it was reassuring to hear that the senator fully supports protecting immigrants like me from the uncertainty and instability caused by out-of-date immigration regulations and partisan bickering.
But that’s not enough. We need all our leaders in the Senate, including Sen. Hickenlooper and his fellow Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, to commit to, and fight for, the inclusion of immigration reform in the budget reconciliation negotiations. I thank them for their past efforts, but now is the time to get across the finish line.
My parents immigrated to the United States when I was three months old, initially making me eligible to obtain Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status. The DACA program, created in 2012, grants deportation protections and work and education authorization for immigrants who came to this country as children. Since its implementation, the DACA program has offered thousands of young immigrants protection and allowed them to build lives and careers without fear of deportation.
But when I turned 15 — the age required to apply for DACA — the Trump administration halted applications with the intention of permanently eliminating the program. On the cusp of receiving my DACA protections, I was thrown into a period of anxiety and stress, unsure if I would be able to remain in the only home I have ever known.
Thankfully, last year the Supreme Court upheld the program’s legality and protected the 700,000 people who have achieved DACA status. Because of the court’s ruling, I was recently able to apply and receive DACA status. Becoming a DACA recipient has given me some peace of mind and hope for a more secure future.
Colorado is my home. Like my friends I grew up with, I have hopes and dreams like attending college, finding a job I love, and supporting my family. It is heartbreaking and terrifying to wake up each day unsure if the doors to all of my dreams will be closed, rejected by the country I consider my only home. These fears were made manifest again this past summer when a judge in Texas issued a ruling that limited the DACA program.
Thankfully, the Biden Administration and the Department of Homeland Security have worked to protect the DACA program and those of us who have participated in the program, which includes 13,320 Coloradans.
While I appreciate the administration’s effort to implement these temporary protections, only Congress can end this uncertainty. And today, they have that opportunity.
The House of Representatives recently passed the Build Back Better Act, which includes long-overdue immigration reforms that would protect immigrants like me. I am incredibly grateful to Colorado’s Representatives Joe Neguse, Jason Crow, and Diana DeGette for their decision to vote for these landmark reforms.
The bill now awaits a vote in the Senate. There is no reason why the Senate should not support these timely and overwhelming popular immigration reforms.
More than half of voters polled earlier this year believe immigrants make our country a better place and 72% support legislation, like the Dream Act, to create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. Americans from all walks of life support this reform because they see the contributions of immigrants in their daily lives and understand that a better, more inclusive immigration system is good for the economy as a whole. When more Americans are able to go to school, serve in essential jobs, and use all of their skills to contribute, we all benefit.
When Americans hear stories like mine and understand the benefits of immigration reform, it’s natural for them to support Dreamers like me. Becoming a DACA recipient allowed me to become involved in my community without fear and pursue higher education in my home state of Colorado.
But the next chapter in my story remains uncertain as long as Senate fails to act. I pray that by sharing my story, and the stories of other immigrants living day-to-day, uncertain in the country they call home, that the Senate, especially Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, will support the inclusion of immigration relief in the budget reconciliation package to give us the certainty we need to pursue our dreams.
Karen Lozano, of Denver, is a DACA recipient and a student at Metropolitan State University
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