Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition invites dreamers to share stories ahead of March 5 deadline

Yixuan Xie

A man tells a story as he sits on a chair.
Victor Galvan, the director of membership and engagement of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, recounts how he grew up in Mexico. Galvan said he grew up with his mother who sold burritos to get by. (Brandon Mendoza | Collegian)

With the March 5 deadline approaching, Dreamers are facing the risk of deportation if Congress does not reach a deal.

Five “Dreamers,” the name given to people who are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and based on the failed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, spoke out about their American Dream and called for action at the Lory Student Center Thursday, Feb. 8 in connection with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.

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Victor Galvan, director of membership and engagement of CIRC, was brought to America in 1991 when he was 8 months old with his parents and old brother.

“I realized that immigration was going to be a problem when one day my mom came home crying that she was fired for not having status,” Galvan said. “This is something that didn’t happen once, but multiple times.”

However, Galvan said he has hope. Since he was 16, he fought for the DREAM Act to pass, though it never did, and fought for change and progress in Colorado and across the nation.

“I felt that we made progress, but then this past year has been a huge step back,” Galvan said. “For the repeal of DACA, it is worth that fight again. We do what we need to do to move forward. I think that’s what the American Dream is.”

The day before the event, several immigration activists held a sit-in at the office of Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) for 44 hours, according to Galvan. 

According to CIRC, Senators  Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) are members of “Gang of 6,” a group of bipartisan negotiator senators pushing for an immigration deal. But so far, this group has failed to introduce a proposal that both Democrats and Republicans can support.

Galvan encouraged people to rally, write letters and make calls to senators and congressmen, and register to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.

“All we have been hearing from Democrats and Republicans is finger pointing, (and) that they are thinking about 2018 midterm elections. That’s why they are not moving on DREAM Act,” Galvan said. “It is time for us as constituents to call them out. This is our government. This is our country. We deserve a better democracy.”

According to Galvan, every single day since President Donald Trump announced the repeal of DACA, 122 people lost their status and after March 5, that number is expected to increase to 1,400 people per day. 

Galvan said he hopes to change hearts and minds and call on the community to step out and fight back.

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“We are the people building American Dream and that idea of creating opportunity out of nothing is born on the backs and souls of immigrants,” Galvan said. “That’s why we fight because we have that fire and inspiration, that hope that tomorrow will be a better day. “

It is time for us as constituents to call (our elected officials) out. This is our government. This is our country. We deserve a better democracy.”Victor Galvan, director of membership and engagement of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition

Christian Solano, another speaker, walked across the border with his mom, one-year-old sister and a group of people when he was 3 years old.

Solano said his mom bought him and his sister light-up shoes, so they would look nice when they saw their dad, who came to America a year earlier. Although the shoes were useful in the tunnel, they became a dead-giveaway when they were out of tunnel and had to walk in front of a border patrol vehicle. Solano’s mom did not want the kids to walk barefoot in the desert, so she carried them.

“At first I thought that she was giving up because we would surely be seen, but she stood tall and walked with a defiant pep in her step,” Solano said. “She had faith and resolve that we would find somewhere our family could survive. She was a real dreamer and told me that the real meaning of courage was to take action.”

Solano said that not creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants does not fit peoples’ wills.

“Under current law, there is no way for people like me … to earn citizenship, and that’s the whole issue at hand,” Solano said. “That’s why almost three-fourths of Coloradans … support creating a path for people like me to earn citizenship. We don’t need a wasteful and ineffective wall to get that done.”

Most of the audience identified as Dreamers and two of them, Betzy Valdez and Arrisa Beltran, shared their experience.

Beltran, who came to America from Mexico at age 3, said she used to be a good student, but the summer before she entered high school, her father told her that she would not be able to go to college because she was undocumented.

“Instead of giving me a push, it really put me in a hole and I started to be really depressed,” Beltran said. “I thought if there was no point if I wasn’t going to the college, then what was the point of trying?”

After DACA passed, Beltran said she went back to school, but it was hard to pick up where she left off. Her DACA permit expired last month.

“Now I have nothing, but I’m still hopeful,” Beltran said. “I want to let people know that we are not criminals. We help contribute to the community and government. We have a voice just as much as others.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of the caption in the above photo incorrectly referred to Victor Galvan as Victor Garban.

Collegian reporter Yixuan Xie can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @YixuanXie1.