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Latinos Hope To Play Large Role In Expected Immigration Reform

Nathan Heffel

Polls showed a massive Latino turnout on election day. Activists are hoping the voting bloc will now play a key role in shaping issues surrounding comprehensive immigration reform.

Thousands of undocumented immigrant youth in Colorado may qualify for a federal program that grants deferred status to work and live in the country legally. Many waited to enroll in the program until after the election.

I spoke to Ana Calderon, an undocumented immigrant who works for the non-profit Together Colorado, about the role Latinos will play in the discussion on immigration reform. The following is a transcript of our conversation:

Nathan Heffel: President Obama, by Executive order, implemented a federal deferred action plan for young undocumented immigrants in June. Ana, Does this program grant you citizenship?

Ana Calderon: It allows us to work legally, pay taxes legally, and the only benefit it gives us is those that I mentioned. It also protects us from being deported for a period of two years.

Heffel: Since you are an undocumented immigrant, do you believe the president’s program goes far enough?

Calderon: It is not enough. This is only for two years. It’s just a big inconvenience. Just trying to renew our licenses every two years, renew the work permit every two years. So hopefully they really fix that and we can be on the safe path to citizenship since it’s really complicated right now. Although, deferred action is a really great first step.

Heffel: The power of the Latino voice was clearly evident in the voting booth this year. With such a large Latino turn out coupled with growing Republican support, do you think Comprehensive immigration reform is possible?

Caledron: What we saw in our people was a big awaking. Because we brought up that we were undocumented youth, we cannot vote. But you can vote for us, and you can vote pro-immigrant. And they saw based on previous elections... they felt empowered. Especially now.

Heffel: What do you say to people who believe you are in this country illegally and should follow the set path to citizenship which begins in the country which you were born?

Calderon: It’s really easy for them to say ‘why don’t you go back to your own country and do the process the right way.’ What would that entail? Really, I just implore them to research that and really put themselves in my shoes. I consider myself part of this beautiful melting pot and I want to be productive for my country, and I want to work to make it great. That’s all I want to do. To be an official part of it.

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