This week, I had the unique opportunity to fly to Washington D.C. and join Dreamers from across the country to advocate for the Dream Act. In its current form, the Dream Act, which was first introduced in 2001, would implement a permanent legislative solution for DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] recipients, providing protection from deportation and work authorization for hardworking individuals who came here at a young age.
On Sept. 5, 2017, after pressure from Attorneys General from 10 states, President Donald Trump made the decision to rescind DACA, a program that has dramatically transformed the lives of nearly one million Americans-in-waiting – including mine. DACA has allowed me to do so much in the last five years, and finally helped me come out of the shadows and embrace my identity as an American and as an immigrant. In the last five years, I have graduated from college, started my professional career, and done just about every single thing any other American has done: work hard to achieve my American Dream.
This trip to Washington was personal, empowering, and highly emotional. I recall the first time I realized I was undocumented, when I was in high school: all of my classmates were getting their driver’s licenses, obtaining their first job, and preparing for college. In contrast, I was ashamed, afraid, and unsure of what my status as an undocumented young person meant for my future. Fast forward to today, and nearly 150 of the estimated 800,000 DACA beneficiaries across the U.S. convened in Washington to make our voices heard and fight to ensure that our lives are no longer subject to political football. We are undocumented, unapologetic, and unafraid.
Along with five other Dreamers from Colorado, I had the opportunity to meet with members of our state’s Congressional delegation to voice our concerns to — as well as thank — our senators and representatives who have engaged on this issue. I’d like to thank Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner personally for serving as co-sponsors of the Dream Act. I’d also like to thank Congressman Mike Coffman – especially now, I am grateful for his willingness to work across the aisle as part of several bipartisan working groups to advance a solution to this issue affecting more than 17,300 Coloradans, our families, and our friends. I encourage them and other Colorado legislators to continue pushing for the Dream Act with urgency.
Toward the end of the day, as I sat in the office of House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland for a Facebook Live meetup inside the Capitol, I paused to take all of it in, and a sense of gratitude and optimism came over me. I was in partial disbelief that I – an undocumented immigrant from a humble background – sat in the same space as one of the most powerful members of Congress, who is actively working to ensure that a legislative solution is passed as soon as possible. I thought about why I was here, and how I was not just sharing my story, but also carrying the stories of the nearly 150 Dreamers on the Hill, of the 17,000 Colorado DACA recipients, and of the thousands of other Dreamers and undocumented individuals around the country. I walked out of my conversation with Congressman Hoyer with the strong sense that we are not alone, and hopeful that a commonsense solution will be found before the March 5th deadline, when DACA will formally be phased out.
While this trip was uplifting and inspiring, it was also a great reminder that we cannot do this alone. We need our allies to call their members of Congress and demand that they bring the Dream Act to a vote. We need our allies to learn and continue to share our stories, to understand our struggle, and become the biggest advocates they can be on our behalf. This is an issue in which every American has a stake. The time to act and pass the Dream Act is now.