Here in Colorado, we know that our differences are what make us even better – and that extends to our vibrant and diverse immigrant communities including Aurora. Simply put, our immigrant communities enrich our state, invigorate our culture and cuisine, and contribute millions to our economy
There’s a reason that I ran for Governor with an emphasis on creating a “Colorado for All.” This means ensuring that every person in our state has the opportunity to thrive here, whether they arrived one year ago, ten years ago, or their family has been here for generations. And since I took office, we have spent everyday working to make that vision a reality for the people of Colorado.
As a member of Congress, I was proud to support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) when it was first created 10 years ago by President Obama, and now as Governor, I’m incredibly proud to see the effect it has had here in Colorado and meet so many Coloradans who benefit from it.
This program, which allows those who were brought to the United States as children to work legally, has changed countless lives, and benefited us all. There are more than 14,000 DACA recipients here in Colorado with a spending power of nearly $400 Million dollars – and estimates show that their removal from our state would not only rob them of the only country they know, but also cost more than $800 Million from our annual GDP. Not to mention the incredible talent, creativity, and innovation that our state would lose.
Take Mario Bravo for example. Mario came to the United States with his family when he was eight months old, and has spent his life in Grand Junction. With DACA protections, Mario has been inspired to follow his passion for software engineering, which led him to start the first chapter of Hispanic Engineers at Colorado Mesa University. After graduation, Mario took a job at Apple, but hopes to one day start his own business here in Colorado.
Then there’s Adriana Montiel. Adriana has lived in Colorado for 24 years, and always dreamed of becoming a teacher, but it seemed out of reach until DACA was passed during her sophomore year of high school. Those protections opened the door to Adriana getting her degree and fulfilling her dream. Now, Adriana works with gifted and emerging bilingual students at the very same Aurora high school that she graduated from.
Alejandra Webster is an acute care nurse, but the path to get there wasn’t easy. Alejandra worked hard as a certified nursing assistant, but it wasn’t until she became a DACA recipient, that Alejandra was able to consider college as a possibility. Alejandra secured her Bachelor’s in the Science of Nursing from Metropolitan State University of Denver, and thanks to SB 21-077, which allows immigrants to pursue professional licensing, Alejandra was able to get her nursing license. Since then, she has served in COVID-19 units and been on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic and a critical member of the healthcare workforce.
These are not just DACA recipients, these are Coloradans. They are our friends and neighbors, family members and coworkers, and they deserve to be here as much as anyone else.
DACA has brought so many benefits to our state, but the work isn’t over. Not only is DACA being challenged in federal court, but federal immigration reform efforts tragically remain stalled. If this were an easy issue to solve, then it would’ve been done already, but it’s well past time for the federal government to take action and create a common-sense immigration system that protects our borders, restores the rule of law, and works for the United States and the families that are proud to call Colorado home.
But President Biden can do more to help fix our broken immigration system even without Congress. The President should move forward with the Deferred Action for Parents program, which would allow the parents of U.S. Citizens to have temporary legal work permits.. This actions would of course benefit the millions of immigrants whose futures are uncertain because of our chaotic system, but it would also benefit our economy and our communities if we do it right.
As we celebrate the historic anniversary of DACA, as well as Immigrant Heritage Month, we should celebrate how far we’ve come while not forgetting the important work that lies ahead.
Democrat Gov. Jared Polis is in his first term as Colorado governor.