DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper joined state lawmakers, immigrants and activists at the state Capitol Friday to voice support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program days ahead of President Trump’s decision on whether or not he’ll continue the program.
The morning rally by some of Colorado’s highest-profile Democrats came as the timeline for Trump’s decision was still up in the air, with Trump telling reporters a decision could come Friday or Monday. But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed later Friday that the president would make his decision by Tuesday.
Some Republican lawmakers had given Trump a Sept. 5 deadline to get rid of DACA lest they challenge it in court.
Hickenlooper, state House Speaker Crisanta Duran and a handful of area immigrants and activists decried the administration’s possible disbanding of the program, which has benefited approximately 17,000 people in Colorado and around 800,000 across the country.
DACA allows immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents to remain in the U.S. to live, study and work on a temporary basis. It was instituted under President Barack Obama.
“Law-abiding DREAMers deserve the chance to realize their potential in the only country they’ve ever known,” Hickenlooper said to kick off the rally.
From there, DACA recipient and Padres & Jovenes Unidos field director Monica Acosta took the mic, and discussed her life under DACA and the Trump administration.
“Every day, I wake up and the first thing I do is take my anxiety medicine, I take a deep breath and Google ‘Trump DACA repeal’ on my phone,” she said.
She went through the hardships of being an undocumented immigrant in America.
“I’m pissed every year that I can’t spend Mother’s Day with my own mom. I’m pissed that students are getting sick and missing school because they are afraid that when they come back home their parents will not be there,” she said. “You have the wrong people to mess with. We are not victims. We are not afraid. We will not hide or be silent while our families are hunted down in our streets, in our schools, in our communities.”
State lawmaker Rep. Dan Pabon said, “We will fight this administration every step of the way as long as they threaten to change the bond that these students have created—not just with their families, but with their country.”
“We are asking the president to not repeal DACA,” Duran said. “If he does, we are asking upon the Congress to make sure that there is a path to citizenship.”
Some in Congress, including several of Colorado’s federal lawmakers, have pushed for legislation that would keep DACA in place and provide a path toward permanent legal status for those currently covered by the program.
Reps. Mike Coffman (R) and Diana DeGette (D) have both in the past two days re-upped their commitment to the BRIDGE Act that Coffman is sponsoring in the House, which would extend DACA status for current recipients for another three years. Coffman introduced the measure in January, but it has yet to get a committee hearing.
On Thursday, Coffman said he would file a discharge petition upon his return from the August recess to Congress to force a vote on the BRIDGE Act.
“DACA participants grew up here, went to school here and should be allowed to stay here. The time has come to take action,” he said.
On Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan told Wisconsin radio station WCLO that he believes there needs to be a legislative solution regarding DACA, and said he hoped Trump wouldn’t roll the program back.
DeGette responded by asking, “What are we waiting for?”
“Speaker Ryan has been sitting on legislation that would help DACA recipients remain productive members of our community and seek a pathway to citizenship,” she said. “Now that it looks likely that President Trump will soon end the program, Mr. Ryan is finally moved to act. Well, Mr. Speaker, what are we waiting for? Let’s put legislation on the House floor next week.”
“President Trump may be ready to break this promise, but those of us who still believe in DACA’s goals will continue our efforts to fulfill them,” she added.
In addition to Coffman’s legislation, DeGette is also cosponsoring the American Hope Act, which is aimed at preventing DACA recipients from being deported.
In addition, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D), Rep. Jared Polis (D), and Sen. Michael Bennet (D) have all voiced their support for DACA in the past two days as it comes under threat.
“@POTUS might end DACA and send thousands of DREAMers back into the shadows. This is the height of cruelty. We must #DefendDACA,” Bennet tweeted Thursday. “Ending DACA isn’t just cruel, it also hurts our economy. DREAMers work hard, pay taxes, and are invaluable in our communities. We value the DREAMERS in [Colorado], and we stand with them to #DefendDACA.”
Polis told the Denver Post he was encouraged by Coffman’s statements and actions on the BRIDGE Act.
“I was heartened that my colleague—Representative Coffman from Colorado—has said that he will file a discharge petition.”
Coffman in turn responded, saying he was pleased his Democratic fellow Congressman was supportive of the move.
“I am encouraged to see U.S. Representative Polis publicly state his support for the discharge petition and I hope that the rest of the Colorado delegation follows his lead,” Coffman said.
Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the decision over DACA is “weighing on” Trump, who has slammed DACA as an illegal “amnesty” program, but has also said that “the DREAMers are terrific.”
Earlier this week, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock signed a sweeping new immigration ordinance aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants and informing them of their rights under state and federal law.