In Support of Dreamers

Today, the Trump Administration ended the program known as DACA (Deferred Action for Children Arrivals).

DACA provided deportation relief to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to this country as kids.

Those kids grew up in America alongside our own — playing on little league teams, running for student government, marching in the school band. Just like America’s kids, they showed up to class, did their homework, and pushed forward with every expectation of building a future for themselves.

The only difference between those kids and ours is that they came to America as undocumented immigrants.

Many of these kids didn’t even know they lacked legal status. I know that firsthand from my time as Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools; it was around the 9th grade that children realized that they didn’t have legal status.

A lot of these kids found out the hard way: applying for jobs that asked for papers they didn’t have, applying for financial aid they were ineligible to receive, and coping with the possibility of being ripped from friends and family at any time.

DACA ended that. Nationwide, it protected nearly 800,000 young adults from deportation and gave them lawful presence to build a future.

And that’s precisely what they’ve done. Since DACA was enacted, those kids have grown into young adults. They found jobs. Paid taxes. Started businesses. Bought homes. And they’re raising families.

In Colorado, over 17,000 young people came forward to take the government at its word and share their information to apply for DACA.

Each one of them placed their faith in us to protect them and their families until we came to a long-term solution about their status.

Today, President Trump has betrayed that trust.

Worse, his decision to rescind DACA betrays the very character of our country.

America does not strip parents from their children. We don’t strip brothers from sisters. America does not round up neighbors to send them to places they haven’t known since they were two years old, or six months old, if at all. We do not use kids and families as some kind of bargaining chip for legislation.

That’s not who we are.

This decision will not only hurt families and communities, it will also hurt our economy. Ninety percent of DACA recipients work. Seven in ten have bachelor’s degrees or higher. They pay taxes. Over the next two years, ending DACA could force hundreds of thousands of people to lose their jobs.

Colorado alone stands to lose over $850 million in economic activity. That’s why business leaders all across my state have decried this decision as not only cruel, but costly.

President Trump campaigned to strengthen families and our economy. With this decision, he’s taken aim at both.

Now, parents across America are planning where to send their kids if they are deported. Young professionals worry what will happen to their mortgages, car payments, and student loans if they are fired and forced to leave. Business owners wonder how they will make up for the hard workers they have come to rely on over the years.

Once again, President Trump has unleashed needless anxiety and uncertainty across America.

With that said, we would never be in this position if Congress had acted to fix our broken immigration system and ensure legal status for everyone protected by deferred action.

I was part of the “Gang of 8” that wrote the immigration bill in the Senate, four Democrats and four Republicans working together over eight months, in a process I think the American people would be justifiably proud of — for once in Washington sitting down to solve problems in a bipartisan way.

The bill had meaningful border security; in fact, it’s the only bill that’s passed either the House or the Senate that had any border security. It also had a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people who are here — including everyone protected by DACA.

It was a good bill, and it got 68 votes in the Senate. And if the House would do what the American people wanted us to do, it would have passed our bill, and we wouldn’t have had to go through the agony of what the Trump Administration is doing to immigrants in this country right now.

Congress must act swiftly to clean up the damage this administration has unleashed. And that starts with passing the Dream Act. Now is the time for our Republican colleagues to come forward on this important piece of legislation that historically was supported by Republicans.

And tonight I want to thank my colleague, Senator Cory Gardner, for doing just that and joining me as a co-sponsor of the Dream Act.

We have an opportunity to come together, Republicans and Democrats, to give young people the certainty they deserve and a legal path to stay in the only country they know.

This is not about left vs. right, but about doing right by young people who in every real sense are our fellow Americans.

It’s about doing right by people in Colorado like Marissa Molina.

Marissa was nine years old when her parents brought her from Mexico to Colorado.

She grew up in Glenwood Springs on the West Slope. She worked hard and planned on going to college, until she realized, like so many, that she was ineligible for in-state tuition because of her legal status.

But she was determined to make it work anyways. She cleaned houses with her mom and tutored other students in Spanish. It helped, but it wasn’t enough. By her junior year, Marissa’s family had little money left, and she nearly had to drop out.

Then DACA came into effect, and Marissa was able to secure federal student loans and graduate from Fort Lewis College in Durango summa cum laude.

Determined to give back, Marissa spent two years teaching in my old school district, the Denver Public Schools. She didn’t have any background in education, but she wanted to “pay it forward by helping other kids achieve.”

Like Marissa, Marco Dorado came to Denver when he was just three years old.

His parents have worked in our community for over two decades to provide for him and his three siblings. Marco was the first person in his family to graduate from high school.

But after graduating, he couldn’t get a job because he didn’t have a Social Security card. He couldn’t get a driver’s license. He couldn’t get student loans.

A bright future froze in place, and Marco felt trapped in a system with no way forward.

Then DACA was announced in 2012. Marco got his Social Security card, his driver’s license, and financial aid to attend the University of Colorado. As he studied for a degree in finance, he worked between classes and interned in our state capitol. There he learned something about politics, and he was voted Student Body President by his peers at CU.

In every practical sense, Marco is American. He has no memory of life before America. He grew up in our schools, played alongside our kids, attended our colleges, and even worked to improve our democracy. His two younger brothers and sisters were born here, as is so often the case.

A decent and compassionate administration would find a way for Marco to stay in the only community he knows. A smart and forward-looking administration would seize on this young man’s talent and commitment to our nation. A wise administration would recognize in Marco and in Marissa the best qualities of America: hard work, family, perseverance, and service.

Instead, we have the Trump Administration — which threatens to rip them from their families, tear them from the community they’ve built in Colorado, and deprive our nation of their obvious talent.

The administration’s decision today has thrown hundreds of thousands of people like Marco and Marissa into needless chaos and fear. And for what — to satisfy the smallest fringe of the far right? A majority of Republicans in my state not only support the Dream Act, but also a pathway to citizenship for those who are undocumented.

Unfortunately, today’s decision is just the latest example of violence this President has done to our country’s traditions. Because of his rhetoric, against immigrants, against Muslims, his equivocating about White Nationalism, there is deep unease in the country. I’ve heard it in town halls across Colorado.

In times like these, it falls on all of us, not just people in the Senate to, to put our hands on someone else’s shoulder and say, “I’m glad you’re here. We appreciate the work you’re doing in our fields and in factories. We’re grateful for what you’ve done for our communities. We’re glad you’re studying at The University of Denver or CSU and CU.”

Though we need legislation to undo the Administration’s action today, this goes well beyond any law on the books — it goes to who we are as a nation.

Earlier this year, I hosted five college students at my home who received protection under the DACA program. I made them breakfast, and we sat around the backyard to talk.

I heard more anxiety than any young person in this country should have to face. But I also heard a series of aspirations that any American would recognize — dreams of finishing college, launching a business, leading a nonprofit, starting a family.

That’s no surprise, because these kids are American in every way that matters.

And like young people across this country, they envision a bright future for themselves. We’ve taught them to do that since they were kids.

Now, we should let them realize it.

Remarks as prepared for delivery on the Senate floor on September 5, 2017.

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