Silverthorne latest stop in Dreamers campaign to pass immigration reform
February 12, 2018
Seven people caught in the crosshairs of the federal immigration debate came forward Sunday night in Silverthorne. They told deeply personal stories that sought to lobby Colorado's congressmen to pass a clean Dream Act.
A 22-year-old woman who grew up in Summit County, graduated high school at Snowy Peaks and is now raising a family of her own was the seventh and final "dreamer" of the night to speak during one of the group's final stops of a four-day, statewide Tour of Dreams.
"I am a local dreamer," Zuleyma Arias said to introduce herself. "Some of you know me. I work. I am married. I have a 2-year-old daughter, and I am trying my best to keep us together even though it's really hard for me and my husband because we both are dreamers. We are trying to do our best here and contribute to this community because this is our home, this is what we know."
Organizing the tour was the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, a membership-based organization founded in 2002 to make Colorado a more welcoming, immigrant-friendly state.
About a dozen people came to the Family and Intercultural Resource Center in Silverthorne, which recently became a member of the coalition, to hear the dreamers speak, and they did not leave disappointed.
"We wanted to do this to bring awareness to the lack of responsibility Congress has taken for this issue, for the politicization of human beings and to talk about how we can build power in our communities to take on this issue in a real way," said Victor Galvan, a 27-year-old who was only an infant when his parents brought him into the U.S.
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"I have lived in Denver my entire life," Galvan said flatly, recalling how his parents separated when he was young, his father kicked them out of the house and the sacrifices his mother made to ensure he and his brothers would have more opportunities than she did.
"My mom, she started making burritos and selling them at a shelter to get us off the streets," he recalled, relaying a lifelong lesson of perseverance, hard work and humility. "And she did."
From his mother, Galvan said he learned how to fight. More importantly, he learned "how powerful (they) were" and "this hope (they) could create (their) own American dream."
Galvan would go on to become the first person in his family to graduate from high school, a common theme for many of the dreamers and the proudest of moments for Galvan and his mother.
"She was so happy, she was so proud of me that I was going to graduate high school," he remembered. "She actually ended up buying my class ring. I didn't know if we had the money for it — I know we didn't — but when I got in the car she was so proud of me, she kept calling me, 'her college boy.'"
In that moment, however, Galvan saw his mother's pride turn to fear because she knew his status as an undocumented immigrant would present major barriers to him pursuing a higher education.
"My mom turned around and she told me, 'Son, I am so proud you graduated from high school — you're going to be the first one in our family to ever do that,'" he said, adding that she told him he was setting a great example for his brothers and his cousins, too.
"And she said, 'You've done so much for this family. I know that you can't go to college, but you don't have to. You've already made me so proud,'" he said.
But in that moment, Galvan found anger. After everything he and his family had been through, to see his mother, a fighter, resigned to him not going to college was completely unacceptable.
"I had been there by her side every step of the way, and she told me we couldn't overcome this, that I wasn't going to go to college because of who I was, because of what we were," he said. "That day I told her, 'No, mom. We've worked too hard to stop here.'"
Galvan's story was uniquely his, but it bore many similarities to the other dreamers.
Not all finished college like Galvan did, but they told stories of struggling for every college credit they could get, even though it meant little to no financial help, fear of being deported and the high price of out-of-state tuition.
Junior Ortega, 25, was 6 years old when he came to the U.S. with his family. He still remembers the desert crossing, the barbed wire that tore his jeans and the bitter cold. However, most of the dreamers, like Irving Reza, 26, simply overstayed a visa — or their parents did with them in tow. Regardless of how they got here, all of the dreamers who spoke Sunday were sure of a few things.
They all see themselves as Americans but worry they've been given an "expiration date." They also don't want to be a "negotiation tactic" that allows "anti-immigration legislation" to secure passage and further demonize their parents and families, a clear reference to the idea Democrats should cave on funding President Donald Trump's border wall in exchange for DACA legislation.
More than anything, the dreamers said they want leadership in Congress to put a clean Dream Act up for a vote, removed from the kind of deal-making they feel has turned them into "bargaining chips."
The Dream Act is a bipartisan bill first proposed in 2001 that has been proposed in multiple forms over the years with the goal of giving some specific undocumented immigrants who came here as children a pathway to citizenship or at least legal status.
The Obama Administration issued an executive order in 2012 known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in a move that was widely denounced as unconstitutional but allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors to avoid deportation and obtain some essential items like a work permit or driver's license.
Trump has expressed support for the dreamers, but he also rescinded the Obama-era policy last September with a six-month deferment, giving Congress a March 5 deadline to find a legislative solution before throwing DACA recipients' futures in the U.S. into doubt.
As a result, the coalition organized the tour in hopes of pushing U.S. citizens who can vote to call their lawmakers and help initiate a vote on a clean bill.