Threats to DACA are hate­ful and wrong

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - By Chuck Plun­kett

Ashow­down awaits Congress when mem­bers re­turn from their sum­mer re­cess: Repub­li­can at­tor­neys gen­eral from 10 states have threat­ened to chal­lenge Barack Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der that pro­vides de­por­ta­tion pro­tec­tion for young peo­ple brought to the coun­try il­le­gally through no fault of their own.

The AGS know that should they send Obama’s De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals to court, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would have to rely on im­mi­gra­tion hard­liner U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions to de­fend the or­der.

While Trump has been sup­port­ive of DACA so far, trust­ing Ses­sions to ad­vo­cate on its be­half would be like trust­ing an al­co­holic with your liquor cab­i­net. Be­sides, what does Ses­sions owe his tor­men­tor boss these days?

As part of our ed­i­to­rial board’s lat­est

re­search on the pos­si­bil­ity of im­mi­gra­tion re­form in the Trump era, as well as the mer­its of DACA, we’ve met with an ar­ray of sources. One is Con­gress­man Mike Coff­man, R-aurora, who has gone to great lengths to cast him­self as a mod­er­ate on im­mi­gra­tion.

He ar­gues the hard­lin­ers are act­ing way too cruel.

“They say, ‘Oh, we’re go­ing to do bor­der se­cu­rity and en­force­ment first,’ ” Coff­man told us. “I say, ‘Wait a minute. Bor­der se­cu­rity, fine. But if you do en­force­ment be­fore you do im­mi­gra­tion re­form, you’re just go­ing to beat the very stuff­ings out of these peo­ple. You are go­ing to make their lives so much worse.’ ”

We also met with two young peo­ple who epit­o­mize what Coff­man is talk­ing about: DACA re­cip­i­ents Marco Do­rado and Marissa Molina, both 25 and orig­i­nally from Mex­ico, who were spir­ited to Colorado at early ages.

Aca­demic stand­outs, they learned early they would have to work twice as hard as other kids if they were to have a shot at mak­ing it in a coun­try whose laws made lit­tle room for them. They vol­un­teered in the com­mu­nity and built up high school re­sumes that got them into col­lege: Do­rado at Uni­ver­sity of Colorado at Boul­der, and Molina at Fort Lewis Col­lege in Du­rango.

For all that, they faced a grim fu­ture in their first two years, and Molina de­spaired that she wouldn’t be able to con­tinue. Though she had some lo­cal schol­ar­ships that cov­ered half her in­ter­na­tional tu­ition rate, in the sum­mer fol­low­ing her sopho­more year her par­ents told her they didn’t have enough to keep pay­ing the other half.

She asked her­self: “Is this sac­ri­fice my par­ents are mak­ing worth me stay­ing?”

She told her par­ents: “If I get a de­gree, it’s go­ing to look very pretty framed on the wall and mean noth­ing. And I’m not go­ing to watch you break your back ev­ery sin­gle day to then not be able to give back to you in the ways you have given me.”

Then there were mir­a­cles. While clean­ing a house with her mother on June 15, 2012, Molina learned Obama had signed the DACA or­der.

In 2013, af­ter years of fail­ure, Colorado law­mak­ers passed the AS­SET law that pro­vides in­state tu­ition rates to stu­dents in the coun­try il­le­gally.

Sud­denly life was full of prom­ise. Do­rado gained a fi­nance de­gree. He now works as a pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor at the Latino Lead­er­ship In­sti­tute at the Uni­ver­sity of Den­ver.

“I was able to do ev­ery­thing you want to do grow­ing up,” he told us.

Molina joined Teach for Amer­ica, be­com­ing one of 40 DACA re­cip­i­ents work­ing for Den­ver Pub­lic Schools. Presently, she’s a man­ager of com­mu­nity en­gage­ment.

There are al­most 750,000 young peo­ple with sto­ries like these. They are con­tribut­ing to the econ­omy and to the suc­cess of the next gen­er­a­tion; hard­charg­ers who faced down their ad­ver­sity and achieved against long odds in com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ments.

These are the kinds of young peo­ple our coun­try most needs.

Yet all along they have been forced to mea­sure out their fu­tures in two-year in­cre­ments, hop­ing that their DACA pro­tec­tions will be re­newed.

Now they are left to hope the pro­tec­tions will ex­ist at all.

Putting in­no­cent young peo­ple like these in a po­si­tion like that isn’t just hate­ful, it’s hope­lessly wrong­headed.

Email ed­i­to­rial page ed­i­tor Chuck Plun­kett at cplun­kett@ den­ver­post.com.

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