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Education

Colorado Attorney General, MSU Denver Rally Around DACA Recipients

Phil Weiser
Amanda Schwengel
/
MSU Denver
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser speaks at a rally to support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA recipients at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

The U.S. Supreme Court is dealing with a case that could affect the fate of more than 700,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Colorado is one of a handful of states that are part of a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's decision two years ago to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Phil Weiser, the state's attorney general, has been a vocal supporter of the program and its recipients, known as Dreamers. He co-hosted a rally this morning at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

"The federal government made a promise to the Dreamers: 'Give us your information, tell us who you are. We're gonna put you at the back of a long line of people who don't have documentation, authorization, we're gonna give you security,'" Weiser said. "Right now, that security is being threatened by the same federal government in what threatens to be the worst, most painful bait and switch I can think about. Which is part of why I am so passionate about this issue."

In addition to states, a number of colleges and universities have urged the Supreme Court justices to support DACA recipients.

Colorado Edition co-host Henry Zimmerman spoke to KUNC's education reporter, Stephanie Daniel, to learn more.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

HENRY ZIMMERMAN: There are about 17,000 Dreamers living in Colorado, and rallies are being held today and tonight in support of those recipients. But before we get into that, let's quickly recap the DACA program. It's got some pretty strict requirements, right?

STEPHANIE DANIEL: Right. So, when President Barack Obama created the program in 2012, it included a list of requirements like arriving in the U.S. as a child and living here for at least five years. Having a high school diploma or being enrolled in school. DACA recipients can also be veterans and are permitted to work.

Though President Trump tweeted this morning that some of the recipients were "hardened criminals," another requirement is that you can't have been convicted of a serious crime.

But the program is not a pathway to citizenship and a recipient must renew their status every two years.

ZIMMERMAN: More than higher education institutions filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in October urging the justices to support recipients in this case. Colorado has at least seven schools that signed that brief and MSU Denver was one of them, right?

DANIEL: Yes. MSU Denver has the largest number of Dreamer students in the state. I spoke to Gregor Mieder, who is the director of the immigrant services program. He says the university believes it's important to support all DACA recipients both across the country and here in Colorado:

We also know that DACA students, just in order to even be part of the DACA program, have to be, you know, absolute model citizens, when in reality they don't get a citizenship status. So, supporting them is just supporting incredibly hardworking students and incredibly upstanding members of U.S. society.

Estefani Pena-Figueroa is a senior at MSU Denver. She was one of a few DACA students who spoke at today's rally. Pena-Figueroa said they have been living under the constant threat of the program ending and deserve stability and certainty:

To my fellow DACA recipients, we need to get up and fight back. We are part of this country and we have invested in the success and wellbeing of our communities and even the economy. So, renew your DACA as soon as you can. Together we have built a strong community here on campus and we must continue to remain united and empowered and resilient. Hand by hand for DACA and for the thousands of undocumented students who were never able to get DACA.

DANIEL: Right now, DACA still exists and immigrants can apply for the program or renew their status. The Supreme Court will make a decision on the fate of DACA next year.

This conversation is part of KUNC's Colorado Edition for Nov. 12. Listen to the full episode here.

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