DENVER (CBS4) – Hundreds of students marched across Denver Tuesday in protest of the decision to dismantle a program that protects young immigrants from deportation.
So-called “dreamers” were brought to the United States before they turned 16, and former President Barack Obama used an executive order to put the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place to help them. Of the 800,000 young people who were shielded by DACA, approximately 17,000 are from Colorado.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday morning announced the Trump administration’s move to end the program. Sessions called DACA an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.
Soon after Sessions’ announcement, students from several different Denver high schools walked out of class and marched from West High School to the Tivoli Quad on the Auraria Campus downtown. Some were DACA recipients and others were friends and family members of those who are in this country because of DACA.
Some carried signs and others chanted words like “Immigrants are here to say! No justice, no peace.”
“I started crying because I don’t think it’s fair that people think that DACA is something wrong when it’s not,” said Maria Daniela Lopez, a DACA applicant. “Like my poster says, DACA is working and it is supporting thousands of people, so I don’t think it’s fair that they’re taking that away from everyone.”
“This is the only country that they know, so I think that as long as they’re good and as long as they study, they work, they pay their taxes, they should have a chance to stay in this country,” said Raul Duran, a DACA supporter.
There will be a six month delay before the program is fully dismantled, as the Trump administration says it wants Congress to find a legislative solution for those affected.
People who have work permits through DACA will be able to stay until those permits expire. If those permits expire before the March 5 deadline that’s been set, they can apply for two year extensions if they do so in the next month.
Some siblings of DACA recipients on Tuesday told CBS4 said they are scared that their families might be torn apart by DACA’s dismantling.
The Department of Homeland Security said former DACA recipients won’t be specifically targeted, but if they encounter an agent of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they could be arrested and deported.
Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican, announced their sponsorship of the Dream Act of 2017 on Tuesday.
“The Dream Act offers a promising solution amid a time of uncertainty for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants around the country—especially in light of the President’s decision today to rescind DACA,” Bennet said in a statement. “While comprehensive immigration reform should remain a long-term solution, we also need a more immediate fix to protect Dreamers. I have long supported legislation that makes clear what we already know: supporting Dreamers boosts our economy, strengthens our national security, and aligns with our values. Congress must move quickly to pass this legislation.”
“Children who came to this country without documentation, through no fault of their own, must have the opportunity to remain here lawfully,” Gardner said in a statement. “I’m proud to join with Senator Bennet and cosponsor the Dream Act to provide certainty to the thousands of law-abiding Coloradan Dreamers and demonstrate bipartisan leadership on this important issue. I have long called for an overhaul of our country’s immigration system and believe this is an important step. I will continue to work with Senator Bennet and our colleagues in the Senate to move this bill forward into law.”
According to the Senators’ offices: “The Dream Act of 2017 would allow a select group of young immigrants, known as Dreamers, to contribute more fully to the only country they know as home and offer a pathway to earned citizenship. The legislation would grant conditional permanent residence followed by lawful permanent residence to young people who arrive in the United States before they turn 18; graduate from high school or obtained a GED; pursue higher education, work lawfully for at least 3 years, or serve in the military; pass security checks; and demonstrate proficiency in English and a knowledge of U.S. history.”