DACA students rally to renew eligibility, ‘mourn loss of dream’

In wake of program’s end, recipients feel ‘betrayed’ but not surprised

Posted 9/25/17

When she was 2 years old, Claudia Hurtado and her sister were taken across the border with people she didn’t know.

Separately, her parents crossed from Mexico to Texas, and there, met the people with their children, before coming to Denver to …

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DACA students rally to renew eligibility, ‘mourn loss of dream’

In wake of program’s end, recipients feel ‘betrayed’ but not surprised


When she was 2 years old, Claudia Hurtado and her sister were taken across the border with people she didn’t know.

Separately, her parents crossed from Mexico to Texas, and there, met the people with their children, before coming to Denver to give them “a better future,” said Hurtado, who’s now able to work and and live without fear of deportation because of the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program. DACA started under President Barack Obama in 2012 when the federal government decided to change how it enforces immigration law.

When she was 13, Hurtado heard that her father was deported after taking a bus to visit his father’s grave in Mexico. After he crossed the border to El Paso, Texas, immigration officers there detained him.

“I remember my mom hiding it from us because we were young,” said Hurtado, now 16 and a Denver Public Schools student. She heard the news first from her sister.

For thousands of students in Colorado, eyeing the thin line between legal status and undocumented life is a daily occurrence — children brought to the United States by undocumented parents live with the possibility their family may be torn apart at any time.

But after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of DACA on Sept. 5, more than 15,000 people with active DACA status in Colorado may see that line erased entirely. The federal government stopped accepting new applications Sept. 5, and those whose status expires before March 5 have until Oct. 5 to reapply. For those whose status is set to expire after March 5, the clock is ticking until their protections run out.

Acting fast

“I was very angry, very frustrated,” said Saira Galindo, a student at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “We all (had) a lot of questions (and) a lot of confusion because can we reapply, do we send it now, do we not renew?”

Galindo, vice president of RISE, a group of undocumented and DACA-status students and allies at MSU, helped organize a walkout that led high school and college students through Denver to the Auraria Campus the morning of Sept. 5 to protest the potential rescinding of DACA. Students from several DPS high schools participated, said Galindo, a DACA recipient.

“Seeing all these young kids, all these schools, speak out was very empowering,” Galindo, 24, said, but “very devastating because people were crying. People were scared ... everyone was feeling literally everything at the moment.”

But amid the panic, lawyers, law students, campus officials and student activists have banded together at colleges across metro areas to renew DACA protections for eligible recipients. On Sept. 16, pro-bono lawyers and staff from MSU and the University of Colorado Denver ran a workshop on the Auraria Campus that got DACA-renewal applications done for students from those two schools. The schools have paid the $495 renewal fee for the students or helped them apply for aid toward the payment, school officials said.

Community College of Denver students, high school students and community members got help with renewals from the local Mexican consulate in Glendale at the workshop, said Galindo, whose RISE group and CU Dreamers, a similar group at UCD, helped organize it. For non-Mexican nationals, the workshop helped them apply for funds through the Mission Asset Fund, a San Francisco-based nonprofit.

In all, 33 people got renewal requests submitted or assitance applying that day. MSU started a fund to help with renewal fees — it covered the fee for seven students there, Saira said — and UCD would pull from the privately funded Student Relief Fund created by University of Colorado regents in April. Five students have applied for the fee to be covered by that fund, which gives preference to DACA students, said Emily Williams, a spokesperson for UCD.

Similar renewal workshops took place Sept. 22 and 23 at Colorado State University Fort Collins, Sept. 23 at the University of Denver and Sept. 27 at the University of Colorado Boulder, and will take place Sept. 29 at the University of Northern Colorado Greeley.

Under pressure

At Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, some undocumented students dropped classes after DACA’s rescinding, officials said.

“I’ve been working in higher (education) for 20 years, and this feeling that `whoa, this might affect my ability to finish my education’ ... I’ve never (previously) felt that,” said Jeff Duggan, coordinator for communications at the college.

ACC doesn’t track its number of DACA students, said Lisa Matye Edwards, vice president of student affairs, but through anecdotal conversations, school officials have noticed. She guessed ACC has about 30 students affected by DACA policy, and the school identified a pool of donated money it can use to help students pay their renewal fee.

The school put out a message to staff and students Sept. 5 and is connecting students to immigration attorneys, Matye Edwards said. Mental health counselors, and ACC staff who were once non-citizens, can speak to students about their anxiety, she said.

On Sept. 13, the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education, which oversees 13 colleges in the state including ACC, adopted a resolution to support congressional action to preserve DACA protections.

Looking ahead

With less than six months until recipients who do not have the chance to reapply for DACA begin to see their status expire, Congress will be under pressure to decide the fate of young immigrants.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, supports the DREAM Act of 2017, which would give undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before age 18 a path to citizenship through work, military service or attending college. He also supports the American Hope Act, which is similar but would not be based on those criteria. He supported DACA when it was enacted in 2012.

“I was pleased to see Gov. Hickenlooper add Colorado’s name to a lawsuit challenging (President Trump’s) decision to end the DACA program,” Perlmutter said.

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner tweeted a statement Sept. 5 saying he’s proud to cosponsor the DREAM Act.

“Children who came to this country ... through no fault of their own must have the opportunity to remain here lawfully,” Gardner’s statement said.

A spokesperson for Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said Bennet supports the DREAM Act and has supported DACA.

Bennet “believes Dreamers should feel empowered to continue contributing to our society — not scared of being deported from the only country they know as home,” the spokesperson said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said that in January he introduced the BRIDGE Act, which would be a “backup” plan to give undocumented immigrants legal presence and ability to work — under similar criteria to DACA — for three years.

“What I hope is a more permanent solution (can pass),” said Coffman, who supports a proposal to combine elements of the DREAM Act with added border security, but not a wall, along with Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder. They put it together in mid-September along with a small bipartisan group in Congress and planned to introduce it into debate soon, Coffman said.

Trump has told Congressional Democrats he would accept some kind of DACA fix in exchange for added border security measures and that the wall would not be a part of the discussions, Politico reported Sept. 14. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan supports that kind of pairing of policies.

“Trump’s announcement probably gives momentum to the effort to pass (comprehensive immigration reform),” Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, said.

In the meantime, students like Claudia Hurtado will be waiting. Her family fought her father’s deportation case, and he was allowed to stay, partly because of his five children. She wants to attend CU Boulder and become a lawyer.

She plans to help people with immigration cases.


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