CSU student, DACA recipient attends State of the Union as Congressman Jared Polis’ guest

Stuart Smith

Colorado State University student, Dreamers United co-president and recipient of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Anarely Marquez-Gomez attended President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address last Tuesday.

Anarely Marquez-Gomez with Congressman Jared Polis. (Photo courtesy of Anarely Marquez-Gomez)

Some Democrats decided to boycott this year’s State of the Union to send a message to President Trump. Others decided to take a stand, which they believed would make a bigger impact, by choosing to bring immigrants, both documented and undocumented, as their guests.

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“We decided that it’s really easy to walk away from things, and it’s really easy to pretend things aren’t happening if you just walk away,” said Marquez-Gomez, a senior triple major in ethnic studies, political science and international studies. “That’s something that we can’t afford to do with immigration and with Dreamers.”

Each member of Congress can bring one guest to the State of the Union, and Jared Polis, the Democrat representative for Boulder, brought Marquez-Gomez as his only guest.

“I had participated in a digital roundtable with him, just talking about immigration and Dreamers and the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act,” Marquez-Gomez said. “I just got a call one day asking if I wanted to go.”

Marquez-Gomez, along with the other immigrants who were invited, sat in the gallery right where President Trump would be looking.

“We thought it would make a bigger impact if we attended the State of the Union, and when the President looked up into the crowd, he could see the faces of the people he was talking about,” Marquez-Gomez said.

“We thought it would make a bigger impact if … when the President looked up into the crowd, he could see the faces of the people he was talking about.”

However, there was some fear resulting from sitting in the gallery, and she described the experience as “a little scary.”

“There were a lot of people that didn’t want us there, and that was very, very apparent,” Marquez-Gomez said.

One congressperson, Arizona Representative Paul Goslar, requested that Capitol Police arrest any undocumented immigrants who were in attendance.

“Just the fact that there (were) people like that, who were willing to go to that length, to make us feel uncomfortable there was really scary,” Marquez-Gomez said.

She said she was disappointed with the content of President Trump’s speech, namely about immigration and DACA, and said she found it hypocritical.

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“(President Trump) kept talking about this unity and us having to cross political lines and work together to find a solution,” Marquez-Gomez said. “But, the President has been provided with numerous bipartisan solutions, and he’s rejected all of them … It’s almost like he’s holding us hostage and it doesn’t matter what we offer him, until we give him his wall.”

Marquez-Gomez said she wants a solution because right now, there is essentially no way to citizenship for DACA recipients. DACA recipients can only get a green card under four strict and limited circumstances: marriage to a U.S. citizen, if the undocumented spouse or children leave the country first and conclude the application abroad; a sponsorship for a green card by an employer for a highly-skilled or highly-educated undocumented immigrant; asylum status, which can be granted if the undocumented immigrant suffered persecution in his or her home country and who has well-founded fear of persecution upon return; or a violent crime in which the undocumented immigrant is the victim and has aided law enforcement. 

“There is no way for (Dreamers) to seek citizenship (by being) good people, or students, who have no criminal record,” Marquez-Gomez said.

One of the benefits to attending the State of the Union, Marquez-Gomez said, was that she was seated next to people with many different backgrounds and outlooks on life.

Behind her was another DACA recipient, and she detailed the interaction between him and a group of men that sat around them. When the man described his experience as a Dreamer, the men started asking him questions about his life.

Towards the end, she said, the men talking with the other DACA recipient realized that DACA recipients essentially have no path towards citizenship.

“They didn’t even know how DACA worked, they thought that you just got it,” Marquez-Gomez said. “They had these false statistics that most of us had dropped out of high school, and they didn’t understand that to even get DACA, you have to either be a high school graduate or enrolled in higher education, (or be either honorably discharged or an active member of the military). They thought that anybody could get it.”

Marquez-Gomez said she will be using what she learned last week in her future actions as an activist and with Dreamers United at CSU.

“As an activist, it’s my job that we get that information out there, we inform people of the realities, and we just keep sharing our story,” Marquez-Gomez said. “That’s the most powerful thing that you can do. It’s not going to convince everybody, but the few people that it does, it will make a difference.”

Collegian assistant news editor Stuart Smith can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @notstuartsmith.