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DACA backers rally for immigration reform as popular program once again hangs in legal jeopardy

July 7, 2022, 10:36 am
Activists rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in front of the Colorado Capitol on July 6, 2022. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado immigration activists continue to call for a permanent solution for undocumented people to receive protected status as a federal appeals court considers the fate of the program that covers childhood arrivals.

“Today, (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is at risk. This is not the first time the program has been under attack by people who believe it is unconstitutional,” activist Jeanette Vizguerra, who is the mother of a DACA recipient, said at a Wednesday press conference.

DACA is an Obama-era program that prevents the deportation of undocumented people who were brought into the country as children. There are about 600,000 DACA recipients nationwide and about 14,000 living in Colorado, according to December statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

A federal appeals court in New Orleans heard arguments Wednesday in a case that could determine the future of DACA. The case is an appeal led by the Biden administration, liberal states and individual DACA recipients against a 2021 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen that DACA was illegal.

Nine Republican-led states argued that the program was enacted without proper legal and administrative procedures and that it creates irreparable harm because of the cost to the states to provide health care and other government services to the recipients. Advocates say, however, that DACA recipients are meaningful contributors to the country’s economy and culture.

The Colorado Office of New Americans estimates that DACA recipients contribute about $800 million to Colorado’s annual gross domestic product.

DACA opponents argue that the program “takes resources away from the United States and from the states where DACA recipients live,” Victor Galvan, an undocumented person who lives in Englewood, said.

“What we’ve seen is the complete opposite. Having immigrants that benefit from DACA only enriches the community by paying taxes, pushing the economy forward and, in most instances, being frontline workers throughout the pandemic,” he said. “We have to continue to fight and support this program.”

Galvan said President Joe Biden should do more with his executive power, especially for children recently brought into the country who do not benefit from DACA. He also called for the U.S. Senate to get rid of the filibuster — which has prevented many high-priority Democratic bills from advancing during the Biden administration — to pass immigration reform that includes a permanent solution for DACA recipients to receive citizenship.

It is unclear when the court will issue a ruling. DACA supporters could appeal to the entire 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as the current case is before a three-judge panel, or to the U.S. Supreme Court. Advocates worry, however, about the fate of a DACA case before a highly conservative court that looks vastly different from when the program began in 2012.

“I am afraid because a lot of the people who now sit on the court were handpicked by Donald Trump. When he ran for president, he directly attacked immigrants from Mexico like myself, so I’m worried that the Supreme Court he built will get rid of DACA if the appeal gets there,” said Denver resident and DACA recipient Juan Gallegos.

People in support of DACA and immigration reform said on Wednesday that states and cities can do more to welcome immigrants as this case and similar ones put their security in limbo. That includes actions like making sure undocumented people can obtain drivers licenses and other forms of identification, and providing in-state college tuition. Colorado already does both of those things and has other progressive immigration policies.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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