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DACA recipient discusses possibilities, promise and problems with new immigration act

The American Dream and Promise Act outlines a path to citizenship for those who were brought across the border illegally as children.

DENVER — On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act, which would allow young people living in this country illegally full legal rights.

RELATED: House passes bills offering path to citizenship for Dreamers, farm workers

The bill now heads to the Senate and if passed could change the future of thousands of people across Colorado.

People known as Dreamers have waited a long time for a pathway to citizenship.

"You know the memories of my journey to the states are very vivid," said Gladis Ibarra. "I remember the details. It feels like a movie sometimes."

Ibarra said her mother brought her across the border when she was 7 years old along with her two younger sisters.

"My journey to the United States was walking through the desert for miles for hours under very hot temperatures," Ibarra said.

Years later, Ibarra was able to obtain DACA status. Standing for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA is a temporary stay from immigration prosecution. DACA also allows people to work legally. Advocates estimate 15,000 people in Colorado are DACA recipients like Ibarra.

RELATED: Siblings say they are cautiously optimistic about future after DACA decision

"Having DACA was never like a blanket of security," Ibarra said.

She said DACA status has to be applied for every two years and is costly.

"Every two years, we find ourselves with the same uncertainty," Ibarra said.

Ibarra is the Deputy Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition located in the Justice for All Center in Denver.

"We have seen this fight for you know, 12-15 years," Ibarra said.

She said the existence of DACA has always been under fire. Former President Donald Trump tried to eliminate the program but was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in December.

"I support any opportunity that allows people to have a pathway to citizenship," Ibarra said.

That pathway is outlined in the American Dream and Promise Act which passed through the House of Representatives on Thursday. But, Ibarra said she has mixed feelings about this bill.

"My mixed feelings come in - in how picky and choosy the government tends to be in allowing the opportunity for some and they get to pick the people they seem worthy," Ibarra said.

Ibarra said she wants to become a citizen, but feels the current proposal is too restrictive with who would qualify for citizenship. 

"At the end of the day, it has been the same fight and it has not gone anywhere," Ibarra said.

Republicans opposed to the bill said it grants "amnesty" to people who break the law. They also want to discuss border security before passing any immigration bills.

The House of Representatives also passed a bill that would create a path of citizenship for farmworkers and their families. Both bills are now headed to the Senate.

Ibarra said she will be watching how things unfold.

"We'll see when we get there," Ibarra said. "If it passed then, we can address that then."

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