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Last week I wrote two DACA updates for two very different papers – the Denver alternative weekly Westword and the Glenwood Spring Post Independent. I also posted an article on RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com looking at ski-town immigration from the law enforcement and prosecution angle.
Quick clarification on the Westword and Glenwood stories. I accurately reported that Colorado DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, or “Dreamers”, met with some members of the state’s congressional delegation as part of a “fly-in” event to lobby for the DREAM Act. The event was sponsored by the tech-industry immigration reform lobbying group FWD.us.
On the Senate side, the Dreamers met in person with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet but were unable to meet with Republican Cory Gardner, who cancelled a town hall in Pueblo last week in order to travel to Puerto Rico over the weekend to check out firsthand the devastating impacts of Hurricane Maria. The Dreamers did meet with Gardner staff members last week.
They also met with two Colorado House members, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman. The group did not meet with Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, who represents much of the Western Slope, including part of Eagle County.
“We are so grateful for Rep. Coffman’s leadership and support of Dreamers,” DACA recipient, educator and Glenwood native Marissa Molina said. “What he shared with us is that he wants to make sure that whatever bill gets voted on has that aspect of border security without the internal enforcement of more ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] raids and all of that.”
On Sunday, President Donald Trump, who has vacillated on Dreamers – promising on the campaign trail he would rescind DACA and later saying he would show them “great heart” – released a list of hardline principles that would dramatically change how the United States has historically treated immigrants.
The principles are his wish list for then doing a deal on DACA – including his controversial border wall proposal and crackdown on both legal foreign workers and immigrants as well as undocumented residents – but likely nonstarters for most Democrats and some Republicans.
The last registration deadline for DACA, offered to children of illegal immigrants who know no other country by former President Barack Obama, came and went last week. Now the clock is ticking on congressional efforts to codify the program in law in the bipartisan DREAM Act, which both Bennet and Gardner have co-sponsored in the Senate. All protections end in March.
But even if the DREAM Act somehow passes both Republican-controlled chambers of Congress and is signed by Trump, Dreamers don’t exist in a vacuum. They have relatives both documented and undocumented living in this country, and in some cases children who are legal U.S. citizens.
That’s why the ongoing immigration crackdown is having such a negative impact on communities across the United States, with labor shortages looming and many residents scared of interacting with police, prosecutors and government officials in general – from local city workers on up to the federal government.
Part of the push for greater internal immigration enforcement is an effort by immigration hardliner and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to increasingly involve local law enforcement in the federal immigration crackdown. That is creating a whole host of unintended consequences in ski towns across the West, as my RealVail.com story pointed out last week.
For his part, Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger doesn’t think local police should have to do the job of the federal government.
“I kind of equate it to there’s no climate for us doing IRS tax enforcement,” Henninger told me. “We don’t have the authority to arrest for IRS tax violations. We don’t have the authority to arrest for immigration violations. What’s the difference?”