DENVER — Local activists are calling for a clear and accessible path to citizenship for immigrants.
The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) and community members gathered at the state Capitol on Saturday to do just that.
They're asking lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to support legislation that would offer permanent residence to immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least seven years.
"I was forced to leave my country when I was 17 years old," said Enda Chavez. "As immigrants, we don’t decide to come to the United States. We are forced to do it. I feel like that's one of the things that people do not understand."
She came to the U.S. from Guatemala four years ago. Chavez was escaping violence and abuse.
"I had to leave my country for that reason and to save my life," she said.
She had to drop out of school and start working at age 13 to help support her family.
When she came to the states she learned English, and was able to graduate from high school in two and half years, during the height of the pandemic.
Today, she's a freshman at Colorado State University (CSU), studying mathematics with a concentration in actuarial science. She's pursuing her childhood dream of getting a higher education, while also fighting for immigration reform.
On Saturday, Edna organized a rally at the state Capitol.
"When she saw that something is not right, she raised her voice," said Omar Gómez, with United for Immigration Reform Colorado.
Gómez and other community members gathered to show support for federal legislation that would offer permanent residence to immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least seven years.
"We are here to stand up and to support the bill HR 1511," he said. "It includes everybody. It doesn't segregate families. Includes DACA, includes TPS [temporary protected status], includes farmer's workers, industrial workers, so everybody can apply for this one."
Immigration reform is a divided issue. One side believes in bolstering border security and deporting undocumented people.
"There is immigrant families that are being separated from their children," said Chavez.
The other side wants a more accessible pathway to citizenship.
Chavez has special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) status, and is on a waitlist for permanent residency.
She's asking politicians to have compassion for immigrants, who want to continue contributing to this country.
"It is not about me, it is about what impact [it] will have in my society and the future generation," said Chavez.
The Colorado Immigration Rights Coalition said the most recent update to the Immigration Act of 1929 was in 1986, which updated the registry date to Jan. 1st, 1972 for immigrants to claim permanent residence. New legislation changes that date to offer permanent residence to immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least seven years.
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