DACA recipients now at risk
By Toni Todd
Western State Colorado University president Greg Salsbury and Gunnison mayor Jim Gelwicks joined voices this week to emphasize why a legislative solution for Dreamers is so urgent for Gunnison County, the state and the nation.
Dreamers are young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. They are currently protected from deportation and allowed to work and attend school legally by virtue of DACA—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—which was signed by president Barack Obama in 2012. That policy is threatened with repeal by president Donald J. Trump. Local DACA recipient and Western student Carlos Lerma and Nicole Melaku, executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), were also part of the press conference call held this week.
“Western has already issued a statement with regard to our stance on diversity and inclusivity,” said Salsbury. “We added to that with a statement in regard to our support for DACA students as well. We added our signature to the list of some 700 universities that are calling on Congress to take action and to find a permanent solution to the situation. We are very hopeful that they will. We have thousands of DACA recipients who are students, employees, and military members and we would like them to be able to continue to contribute to our schools, communities, and nation. We are particularly appreciative of the diversity brought to the university through DACA. We think it’s really important, and want to lend our voice to urge Congress to work swiftly to pass an equitable and permanent legislative solution.”
“The Dream Act is part of the American dream,” added Gelwicks. “If you work hard and pass standards, you’ll be judged on merit. Congress should allow our students to stand on their own merits and not be judged by the actions of others. They contribute to the health of our community and health of our nation.”
The Center for American Progress reports more than 17,000 DACA recipients in Colorado, with 2,000 of those in Rep. Tipton’s district. Last week marked a week of action by university presidents and leaders in higher education in support of a clean Dream Act.
“I am 19 years old, and have lived in the United States for 17 years,” said WSCU student Carlos Lerma. “I am urging Congress to pass a clean Dream Act because our safety is on the line. We ask that there are no dangerous add-ons that could terrorize our parents or fund a border wall. My parents made the difficult choice to bring us here when I was two to give me better opportunities, but without papers, it was hard to do the things I wanted to do. DACA allowed me to get a work permit so I could help my mom pay my bills and enroll in college to pursue environmental law. Without DACA, there is fear and uncertainty. We need Congress to pass a clean Dream Act so that people like me can once again feel safe. This is our home and we are here to stay.”
Salsbury and Gelwicks urged Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO3), Sen. Cory Gardner, and Congressional Republicans to sign on to the Dream Act.
“The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition stands firmly with DACA recipients, our national partners and allies to demand a clean Dream Act be passed by December 8,” said CIRC’s Melaku. “We are calling on Senator Gardner and Senator Bennet to stand firmly on passing a clean Dream Act in the Senate that is not tied to harsh enforcement measures and any allocation of dollars in the FY18 federal budget to detain and deport other members of the immigrant community. We urge Representatives Scott Tipton, Doug Lamborn, and Ken Buck to show their courage and join Rep. Mike Coffman as co-sponsors of HR3440-Dream Act of 2017. We expect bi-partisan collaboration to pass a clean Dream Act that will allow DACA recipients the opportunity to continue to contribute to our economy and our communities in Colorado and across the country.”