Many on the Front Range anxious as DACA hangs in balance

Photo Credit: Kevin Erwin, Unsplash
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, originally came about via executive order by then-president Barack Obama in 2012. DACA’s future now hinges upon a pending ruling from a federal judge in Texas who previously ruled against it. KGNU’s Ivonne Olivas has the story.
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    Many on the Front Range anxious as DACA hangs in balance Alexis Kenyon

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DACA grants work authorization and deportation protection to immigrants who arrived in the country prior to 2007 and were 15 years old or younger. Recipients must meet a long list of qualifications and reapply every two year

DACA’s future now hinges upon a pending ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen from Texas, who has previously ruled against the program. 

Victor Galvan, strategic partnerships manager at Conservation Colorado, arrived in the United States when he was just eight months old. “My parents left Mexico really because they were economic refugees. They really couldn’t find enough work to support us and thrive,” he said.

Galvan is one of the estimated 580,000 recipients in the United States of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.  

“A lot of experts at the federal level are telling us ‘prepare for the worst’ and we always have. That’s how we’re wired. We’re always expecting the worst. The question of whether or not we’re going to overcome this one. I mean, it’s just been one hurdle after another for this program. We’ve gotten through all of them. I hope we can make it again,” says Galvan. 

If DACA is overturned, it will affect more than half a million people in the United States according to Forward.US. The program provides temporary work authorization protection from deportation, but lacks a direct path to citizenship.

Immigrants across the country are rallying for Congress to pass H.R. 1511, which would update a program that would provide lawful permanent resident status to qualifying long-term residents of the U.S. 

Melany Laplander, director of Latinos Associated Together Informing, Networking and Outreaching, or LATINO, said that if the bill passes, it would benefit more than just DACA recipients.

“It would update the date on the registry law, making it so that anyone that has entered the United States prior to January 1st, 2016, would have an opportunity to file for residency and have a pathway to citizenship,” Laplaner says. “The wonderful thing and why we are supporting the registry bill is that it includes DACA, it includes TPS recipients as well, it includes farm workers…pretty much anyone that has entered prior to 2016.”

Creating a path for citizenship would enable a permanent solution for the ever-changing immigration landscape; something Galvan has yearned for his entire life. 

“I can hear the oath, the American oath of nationalism to the United States, I can hear it already. I can hear myself saying the words. I’ve studied for the test. I know I could do it. In the grand scheme of life, what does citizenship mean, right? If it means I contribute, if it means I pay taxes, if it means that I work day in and day out to support a family and an economy that support all of us, I should be a citizen. Right?”

The uncertainty around DACA and immigration reform keeps long-term residents from being able to make long-term life plans.  

“El impacto de no saber donde estan parados es horrible. Podemos hablar de diferentes aspectos, como el aspecto emocional que tanto te va afectar la mente, el no saber, no tener una certeza en la vida de lo que va a pasar con tu situacion legal. La question emocioinal les crea ansiedad, les crea depression, les crea un trauma increible, y por otro lado la cuestion monetaria, de no saber si mañana me van a quitar el trabajo porque ya se me termino el permiso de DACA.The impact of not knowing where they stand is horrible. We can talk about different aspects, like the emotional aspect that greatly affects the mind, and the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen with your legal situation,” says Gina Millan, community organizer for Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, or COLOR.

She said it takes an awful emotional toll and fuels trauma. That’s on top of the economic issues of potentially losing one’s work authorization with a judicial ruling. 

One way to overcome the sense of powerlessness lies within the family. 

 “Qué puede hacer? Qué podía hacer mi hija por mi? Votar desde que pudo … desde los 18 años. Pero eso también es una responsibiladad de los padres, educar a nuestros hijos en la question politica, en el involucramento y la participación cívica. What can you do? What can my daughter for for me? Vote from the moment you turn eighteen but it’s also the the parents’ responsibility to educate our children about politics and civic engagement,” says Millan.

Now, all that’s left to do is wait for Judge Hanen’s decision about the fate of DACA. 

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    Many on the Front Range anxious as DACA hangs in balance Alexis Kenyon

Alexis Kenyon

Alexis Kenyon

Alexis Kenyon is an experienced radio reporter with more than 15 years of experience creating compelling, sound-rich radio stories for news outlets across the country. Kenyon has master's degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism in radio broadcast and photojournalism. She has worked in KGNU's news department since 2021 as a reporter, editor, and daily news producer. In all her work, she strives to produce thought-provoking, trustworthy journalism that makes other people's stories feel personal. In addition to audio production, Kenyon runs KGNU's news internship program and oversees the department's digital engagement.
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