Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would be an “economic disaster to cities and states.”
He promised to do everything under the law to protect DACA recipients.
“Since DACA was established in 2012, Dreamers living in Colorado have been able to go to work, continue their studies, contribute to our great state and country, without fear of deportation,” Polis said last week in a phone call with media. “These are kids that your kids and my kids grew up with, they are cheerleaders on the football team, in school plays, they’re friends, they’re dates, they’re just as American as any other Coloradan.”
Established under former President Barack Obama in 2012, DACA shields young people who came to the United States at a young age from deportation. However, in 2017, the Trump administration announced it would be ending the program, and on Nov. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the legalities of terminating the program. With nearly 700,000 DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, in the U.S., and 15,000 in Colorado, terminating the program will affect many.
Polis called the termination “unconscionable.”
Dreamers should be treated as the de facto Americans that they are, Polis said, and ending the program would not only affect recipients – it would affect society as a whole.
“Everyone would suffer if the Trump administration is allowed to start rounding up and deporting Dreamers who want nothing more than simply to contribute to the only country that they know and that they call home,” Polis said.
Dreamers pay taxes and contribute to society in the same way as any other American, said Erik Gamboa, a 37-year-old DACA recipient.
“I waited about a year before I actually applied (for DACA) because I was scared of coming out of the shadows and all that, but it’s been a life changer, for sure,” Gamboa said in the media call. “I grew up paying taxes and doing work since I was about 16 with my parent’s company ... and right now, I do both that and work as a real estate agent.”
Gamboa moved from Mexico to California when he was 1 year old, and since the age of 12, he has been living in Colorado. He currently has a 16-year-old daughter, who he describes as the “best thing that has ever happened,” but after Trump’s election, he had to have a conversation with her about their future together.
“I had the conversation with her of me possibly being deported, and what that would mean for us,” Gamboa said. “And even though I might not be around, I would still always be there for her, and that was a hard conversation to have, but it felt like the reality of things.”
If the program were to be rescinded, Gamboa said he has not given much thought as to what that would mean because it is beyond his control, and that seeing “what comes of it and hoping for the best” is all he can do.
In terms of Supreme Court proceedings, Denise Maes, public policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, said in a media call that three courts of appeals have already upheld DACA, so if the Supreme Court were to vote for its termination, it would be overturning three other court decisions.
However, even if the Supreme Court did uphold the lower court decisions, the Trump administration could still end the program on the basis of executive discretion, meaning that “Trump would own all the consequences of the decision.”
“If the program is terminated, it’s pretty clear that the consequences of that are stories like Erik’s, the facts and statistics that Gov. Polis pointed to, and it will be even more of an imperative that we start to do something on the legislative side to provide a path of citizenship or legal status to the almost 800,000 individuals who are affected by DACA,” Maes said.
Although Gamboa faces the looming possibility of deportation, he continues to assist other immigrants by teaching English at a local high school and helping them with their taxes for free.
“It’s just nice to help the community,” Gamboa said. “It’s nice to help people and be there for people because I kind of feel like we’re all we got.”
Ayelet Sheffey is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.