Over 140 Summit County residents rally in Frisco to support DREAM Act passage on MLK Day | SummitDaily.com

Over 140 Summit County residents rally in Frisco to support DREAM Act passage on MLK Day

As rush hour traffic honked in support behind the crowd at Summit Boulevard and Main Street in Frisco, Summit Cove resident Javier Pineda held a microphone and recounted the thoughts racing through his head on his 18th birthday a few years ago. While friends and family celebrated his passage into adulthood, he remembered asking himself, "Well, now that I'm 18, does that mean I'll get deported?"

Pineda is a "Dreamer," one of an estimated 700,000 young people who took part in President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and who are hoping Congress can pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. Without the passage of DREAM or renewal of DACA, Pineda and other Dreamers face the prospect of removal to countries they have not been to since they were children.

On Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Pineda and a crowd of over 140 Summit residents braved the cold and rallied in front of the big gold letters of the Frisco town sign. They waved signs and held placards showing their support for Dreamers like Pineda and the passage of a clean DREAM Act. The crowd was made up of students, activists, nonprofit leaders and high-profile supporters, including Summit County commissioners Dan Gibbs and Karn Stiegelmeier.

The rally was organized in large part by local immigration advocates Judy Phillips and Karen Santric. Phillips is a DOJ-accredited representative from Bethany Immigration Services in Frisco, and immigration attorney Santric works for the Dillon-based law firm Elevation Law. Both have helped Dreamers renew their DACA applications and have long advocated for the passage of the DREAM Act.

Phillips said they chose MLK Day for the rally as she believed the legendary civil rights leader would have supported the right of Dreamers to live freely and with dignity, in the only country they've known as home.

"He was a man who inspired so many," she said, "and we want to inspire people in this county and beyond to go out there and make their voices heard, to go to bat for the Dreamers. We have a moral responsibility to these young people."

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Santric added that the rally was being held because "it is absolutely necessary to pass the DREAM Act this Friday, January 19," and they wanted to encourage people to call their representatives and support the critical piece of legislation.

"Without DREAM, our high school students, our college students, our neighbors are at risk for deportation, or might lose their jobs or scholarships. We owe it to these kids to give them a better future. So many have been in our county and our state since they were babies."

Another speaker addressing the crowd was Dreamer Mateo Lozano. Lozano spoke of how he came to the U.S. from Columbia when he was 4 years old. His parents had given up their professional lives in Columbia for a better future for him here. He recalled attending Frisco Elementary school and growing up just like any other kid in Summit.

"I grew up with your kids. I watched Spongebob. I saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I know exactly what it's like to be American. The only difference between me and the person next to you is a piece of paper. I don't deserve to be deported."

He added that 122 Dreamers were losing legal status every day, and that close to 15,000 have already lost their protection along with jobs, health insurance and hope. "It's already too late for many people. There have been people who have committed suicide because they don't know what else to do. They don't see a solution," Lozano said.

Nissa Erickson, a representative from Congressman Jared Polis's office, read a statement from the congressman as he was unable to personally attend. Rep. Polis is one of 200 cosponsors of the newest version of the DREAM Act, which has languished in Congress since it was first introduced in 2001. In the statement, Polis called for its immediate passage into law.

"The deadline for finding a permanent solution is now," the statement read. "As your representative, I will do everything I can to ensure that Dreamers can live openly and proudly in the only country they've called home."

After the speeches wrapped up and the sun sunk lower into a glow behind Mt. Royal, candles were handed out and a vigil was held for those who have already been deported, and for the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who face an uncertain future. The crowd softly sang "We Shall Overcome" as an echo of civil rights movements past.

Pineda, who arrived in Summit from Mexico in 2006, was moved by the show of support from his fellow Summit residents.

"It means a lot, because it's nice to see color," he said in a nod to the unusually diverse gathering of different races, ethnicities and religions in Frisco.

"We are all Dreamers, we all have different dreams and aspirations. And for them to come out and support people like us means we have a good foundation and community involvement. And it just makes me happy."