Immigrants key to Colorado’s workforce
Earlier this year, I marked the ninth anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by discussing the inaction in Congress that has led to years of uncertainty and the fear in the immigrant community that’s holding our economy back. Immigrants enrolled in DACA have been in the United States since childhood without a permanent solution. They’re still waiting on action, and immigrants are in increasing peril. Thankfully, there are opportunities for action that Coloradans and our congressional members can take advantage of to end Dreamers’ uncertainty and support the DACA program, however.
Over the summer, Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas ruled against the continued acceptance of DACA applications, which jeopardized the continuation of the program and the security of the nearly 600,000 DACA recipients in America altogether. Then, recently, the Senate parliamentarian ruled against initial proposals to include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the long-anticipated reconciliation package in the works in Congress. Unsure of their future, immigrants are under pressure and in desperate need of our help, support, and legal protections.
Despite the challenges facing the immigrant community, there are reasons for hope. The Biden Administration recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making on DACA, providing an opportunity for the general public to comment in support of strengthening and fortifying the program. I encourage my fellow Coloradans to join me and the Vail Valley Partnership in speaking out in support of DACA during this 60-day public comment period. We are commenting in support because we recognize the integral role Dreamers play in Colorado communities and the economy and hope others do too.
Immigrants here in Colorado are essential to our state’s growth, success, and prosperity. There are more than 550,000 immigrants in our state, with nearly 150,000 being undocumented. They are working hard to support their families, pursue their ambitions, and contribute to our economy in substantial ways. Further, one in eight workers in Colorado are immigrants and they are critical to the success of our workforce. While this has always been true, the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic has made immigrants’ importance even more apparent.
Immigrants in Colorado are also students, and they know all too well the trials and tribulations that come with a lack of legal status while pursuing an education. In recent letters, Dreamers Karen Nuñez and Duvia Ortega shared their discouragement over their lack of ability to achieve their dreams because they cannot become citizens. They study hard, they work tirelessly, and they don’t give up, but the future for them is still uncertain.
A pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients has the support of the overwhelming majority of Americans from both sides of the aisle. It’s important to make your voice heard to protect the program through the comment period, but this “solution” would remain temporary and limited unless Congress changes the law. Now is still the time for action. Congress needs to move forward to enact legislative protections for undocumented immigrants that are living and working in Colorado and throughout the nation. Doing so will change the lives of millions while also preserving our state’s culture and benefitting our economy. Reconciliation is still a viable option, and lawmakers are continuing efforts to provide protections.
Our state’s Senators, Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, and Representatives, Joe Neguse, Jason Crow, and Diana DeGette, have long been strong allies and advocates for our immigrant community. With the future of so many Coloradans hanging in the balance, I hope they will continue to support our immigrant friends and neighbors during this time of crisis. Only by standing together can Colorado continue to be a welcome home for immigrants and their families.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com
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