Mountain Dreamers emerges as new resource for immigrant population in Summit, including Dreamers and DACA recipients
There’s a new nonprofit organization in Summit County focused on building awareness and providing assistance to the area’s immigrant population.
Mountain Dreamers informally was founded last year and has quietly grown into a volunteer-based group hosting educational events across the county, providing legal resources for individuals appearing in immigration court and trying to build bridges between communities.
“Our purpose is to educate and empower everyone in our community — in Summit and the mountain region — to stand up for the rights of the immigrants and their families who are such a large part of making our community so successful,” Mountain Dreamers executive director Peter Bakken said. “We took our name from the Dreamers (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), a name for young people who have been members of our community since they were kids and came to the U.S. with their parents.
“Despite growing up here and being American in every way, many of them are still undocumented immigrants. Even though they are in their 20s or 30s, and some have temporary DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) protections, they have no permanent pathway to citizenship currently. So we take our name from them, and we are focusing on the issues involving the Dreamers.”
The term “Dreamers” comes from the DREAM act, legislation that was never passed in Congress.
The Summit nonprofit already has begun offering a series of community events to help educate people on the issues facing the immigrant population in Summit. In March, the group partnered with the Breckenridge Film Festival to screen a documentary called “Quiet Force,” a look into the human and economic impact of Hispanic immigrants in ski towns. Last month, the group hosted a panel discussion with the county’s law enforcement leaders in an effort to build relationships between the two groups and allow immigrants in the county to ask questions regarding ICE and other issues facing the community.
The group’s second initiative is developing a legal defense fund to help provide legal resources for locals who are facing deportation or seeking asylum but can’t afford an attorney. Because immigration is a civil matter, individuals appearing in immigration court aren’t afforded a public defender.
Next year, Mountain Dreamers also will bring to Summit County a Family Leadership Training Institute course, a national leadership and family advocacy curriculum run by Colorado State University Extension. The 20-week course is designed to help develop leadership skills and knowledge about the civic process to give participants the skills to make positive changes in their communities.
As the conversation surrounding the county’s immigrant population continues to grow — the Summit Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution late last month declaring June Immigrant Heritage Month — so does the necessity for groups to help lead the discussion.
“The underlying goal, and something we’ll be purposefully working on, is talking about the importance of immigration reform for DACA recipients,” said Javier Pineda, a DACA recipient who serves on the Mountain Dreamers board. “I know there are a lot of allies in the community and people who want to see changes. But there’s still this wall of, ‘What do those changes look like, and what can we do to make it happen?’ We want to serve as a bridge between the immigrant population and Summit County in general.”
On July 20, Pineda will be embarking on a two-day bike trip from Copper Mountain to Aspen hoping to raise awareness of the American Dream and Promise Act — a national bill recently passed by the House of Representatives that would protect DACA recipients from deportation and provide a path to permanent resident status. The group will be hosting a sendoff for Pineda the night before at HighSide Brewing in Frisco.
“The whole idea behind it is to connect communities and raise awareness about the issue,” Pineda said. “We are talking about having the opportunity for other people to join us for sections of the ride, and it will be a fun, funky event to raise awareness for Mountain Dreamers and the Dream and Promise Act.”
Bakken said anyone interested in working with Mountain Dreamers should reach out through the group’s website, MountainDreamers.org.
“We want to give people an opportunity to be involved in these issues,” Bakken said. “A lot of people who support this kind of thing are frustrated with the current climate and looking for ways to get involved. That’s what we’re offering.”
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