In what seems like the blink of an eye, the coronavirus is spreading across the country and our state rapidly, resulting in a feeling of nationwide uncertainty and fear.
Unfortunately, these feelings are not new to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients or Dreamers, such as myself, and our worries continue as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.
For thousands of Dreamers in Colorado and the nearly 700,000 DACA recipients nationwide, our futures are already weighted, with the potential for deportation during a time of global crisis looming.
For Dreamers like us, the DACA program has allowed us to legally work and study in the U.S after coming to the U.S. as children with our families. DACA has allowed me to earn a degree from the University of Denver, becoming the first in my family to graduate college. Now, I’m a campus advisor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
DACA recipients, and the immigrant community more broadly, are also playing a critical role in our nation’s coronavirus response – many are healthcare providers, grocery and pharmacy workers, first responders, sanitation workers, and essential service providers. Our contributions and all that we’ve worked for is now at risk, however.
Our already uncertain futures, further complicated by the COVID-19 outbreak, are in limbo due to the Trump Administration’s attempted 2017 DACA program rescission. Due to court injunctions, the DACA program now awaits a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court determining the fate of the program and, consequently, the nearly 700,00 DACA recipients it protects nationwide.
The Court heard oral arguments around the program this past November and, despite the current global health crisis, is set to issue a decision regarding the future of the program any time now, which could bring our protections to a screeching halt.
To add further complications, COVID-19 has led to the closure of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices, which process DACA renewal applications that must be submitted every two years.
To alleviate this burden, I encourage the Trump Administration to rescind its appeal before the Supreme Court and to automatically renew DACA applications for those whose status expires before the end of this year.
But to permanently address this, we need a solution to be passed by Congress – and soon.
Should the Court decide to terminate the DACA program without permanent protections in place, nearly 15,000 Colorado Dreamers could face deportation, taking with us the economic and community contributions we bring. In Colorado alone, Dreamers annually contribute $59.1 million in state and local taxes and $527.4 million in spending power. We are playing critical COVID-19 response roles and the nation needs us more than ever.
While we confront this pandemic and await the court’s decision, it’s also critical that all eligible Dreamers speak with an attorney and renew their status while they still can. I encourage DACA recipients to visit the USCIS website and resources like InformedImmigrant.com for up-to-date information on how COVID-19 is impacting DACA and the renewal process.
In the midst of this crisis, families should not have to worry about whether they will be separated from their homes and loved ones. It is urgent that Congress take action and give Dreamers permanent protection before it’s too late.
I hope that Colorado Senators Gardner and Bennet will work together to pass legislation that protects Dreamers once and for all, such as the American Dream and Promise Act, passed in the House last June. This will ensure that communities remain intact, the economy is supported, and that no one is forced from the only home they’ve ever known during a deadly global pandemic.
Fryda Faugier Ferreira is a DACA recipient and a Campus Advisor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.