Colorado Immigrants' rights advocates rally to protect DACA program
Eight different Colorado organizations that fight for immigrant rights rallied in Denver Thursday in an effort to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
The groups are made a plea to Governor John Hickenlooper, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and the state's Congressional leaders Thursday to protect the DACA program from being struck down in federal courts.
DACA allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to stay and receive work permits, providing they don't commit any disqualifying crimes. Attorneys general from ten different states and one governor are threatening to sue the Trump Administration if it does not stop granting, or renewing, DACA by September 5.
They made the threat in a letter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday.
It was signed by attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter also signed the letter.
The legal challenges are based on claims that former President Barack Obama lacked authority to grant "amnesty" to DREAMers.
Our partners at USA Today report, in a closed-door meeting Wednesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly warned the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that the program to protect DREAMers is in jeopardy.
The report states Kelly added he supports the program and would like to Congress to pass a law permanently protecting DREAMers, but that is highly unlikely with Republicans in control of both the House and the Senate.
Colorado DACA recipients and advocates for immigrants' rights rallied in response to Kelly's assessment of DACA's fate.
"That to us is frightening, because it tells us for one that the Director of Homeland Security will not stand up for it, and for us that's a huge thing because it protects almost 800,000 people in the U.S. from deportation," said Victor Galvan, a DACA recipient and member of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.
"We've been waiting for something more permanent and to see that they're [the attorneys general and Idaho governor] attacking so that it [Trump Administration] gets rid of this program that has protected so many people and changed so many peoples' lives is frightening."
Ana Rodriguez, the community organizer for Colorado People's Alliance, and another DACA recipient added, "I feel exhausted, I feel frustrated, I feel angry, and in the worst moments, I feel helpless. I feel terrified that at any moment this program is going to be taken away and once again I won't be able to work - how will I pay my bills?"
She went on to say, "What is going to happen to me if I get stopped on the street and I no longer have DACA? What's going to happen to me if I get put into deportation proceedings and I don't have thousands of dollars to hire an attorney to stay in this country?"
Galvan and Rodriguez were among the dozens of people at the Justice for All Center who made an emotional plea to state leaders, asking them to do what they can to ensure DACA doesn't end.
Alexa Balon, a Metropolitan State University student, youth leader with the Padres y Jovenes Unidos Organization, and DACA recipient, was also part of the group.
"Colorado officials take action - we need you to protect DACA. We need this," said Balon.
9News reached out to both the governor's and attorney general's office.
Governor Hickenlooper's office released this statement:
Colorado is better when DREAMers pursue an education and contribute to our communities. Our state benefits from those supported by DACA. Immigrants help form the fabric of our culture and that culture doesn't support tearing families apart!
A spokeswoman for Coffman's office said - "Some Republican attorneys general signed the letter calling for the repeal of DACA, Attorney General Coffman was not one of them. She declined to sign the letter."
Balon also had a message for President Trump," Don't buckle under pressure, you said we're keeping it so don't buckle under pressure."
Trump had said during his presidential campaign that he would repeal what he said were unconstitutional executive actions taken by President Obama, including DACA.
However, after taking office he said his administration "was going to show great heart" in dealing with DACA and allowed the program to continue.
The eight groups involved in Thursday's rally in Colorado were The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Colorado People’s Alliance, Mi Familia Vota, American Friends Service Committee, Together Colorado, Northern Colorado Dreamer United, Service Employee International Union, Padres y Jovenes Unidos.