Vail Daily column: Save the Dreamers
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was established by President Obama in 2012. This is a form of immigration relief designed to shield certain young undocumented immigrants from deportation, and grant them temporary permission to study and work in the United States. It does not grant amnesty, nor provide a path to legal status or citizenship.
The eligibility requirements for DACA are complex. Applicants must be under the age of 31 as of June 2012 and have come to the United States before he or she turned 16 years old. Applicants must meet a certain education requirement, as well as have and maintain a clean criminal record.
Essentially, DACA was created to protect illegal immigrants who were very young when their parents entered the United States. This country is the only country these young people know, English is their primary language, and they are often now in high school or college. These kids are as American as any that you will meet. Referred to as “Dreamers,” I refer to them as “Achievers” since they have had to actively choose to submit applications for their DACA status (at a cost of $465, and include being fingerprinted and photographed, and potentially interviewed by Homeland Security); maintain their studies or work status; and are, in my experience, extremely eager and able to attend college and/or establish successful working careers.
There are about 30,000 DACA children/young adults in the state of Colorado. Most came into our country as babies alongside their parents from Mexico and other Central American countries, and have been here for 15 or 20 years. Many were first-born children and have younger brothers and sisters that were born in the United States, and who, consequently, are U.S. citizens. This makes the threat of losing DACA status and being deported extremely threatening to them and their family’s lives.
During the election campaign, President-elect Trump promised to revoke many of President Obama’s executive orders and unilateral actions, such as the establishment the DACA program. However, since being elected, he has tempered his comments on immigration issues. He has committed to deporting illegal immigrants who have committed crimes — much along the lines of the actions President Obama has taken during the past eight years (President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president in U.S. history).
If one was inclined to deport illegal immigrants, certainly our DACA participants should be last in line for this — the U.S. is the only country they know, they did not choose to enter the country illegally, they are going to school and/or working, staying out of trouble and are on the path to becoming successful adults. One DACA young adult I know well is in college studying education and is planning to return to our valley to teach in the Eagle County school system. She is an all-A student and would be a remarkable role model to the many children she hopes to end up teaching — particularly Hispanic children who make up more than half of the student body in our school system.
I am hopeful that President-elect Trump, when he digs more deeply into this matter, will see the great value in the DACA program, and choose to continue it. To this goal, I would like to urge you to take five minutes and go to the websites of your U.S. senators and congressperson, select the “contact” option, and leave a brief message asking them to contact the president-elect and urge him to support the DACA program. It means a lot to our state, and losing the program would cause inestimable grief and disruption in thousands of Colorado families’ lives.
Steve Coyer has lived full-time in Avon since 1999 and has been deeply involved in children’s educational issues throughout the valley. He is a former chair of The Youth Foundation (now called YouthPower365), and currently serves on the Vail Valley Foundation Board of Directors and its Education Committee.