Colorado Springs Clean DREAMers Head to D.C.

In mid October, an email was sent out to a small number of Colorado College Students about the Colorado Springs Dream Team. It advertised the group as a local coalition supporting the Clean Dream Act “trying to spread awareness and push for legislation change by December 9-10.” The Clean Dream Act is pitched as a fair shake for the more than 800,000 Obama-era “DREAMers”, those benefiting from the 2011 Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, and their families. 

Photo courtesy of Emma Kerr

Junior Veronica Fernandez-Diaz, member of the Colorado Springs Dream Team, was the student who sent the initial email advertising the Dream Team. She became involved with the group after news broke that President Trump would halt the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a six-month delay. 

She was flown out to D.C. by United We Dream, a youth-led immigrant rights group, that has been leading organizing efforts to secure immigration reform. They coached students like Fernandez-Diaz on media preparedness, educated them about the immigration bills before Congress, and trained them to bring organizing skills that they could implement back home. 

Locally, the Springs Dream Team, comprised of DACA recipients and allies carry out weekly actions, inspired by United We Dream, to lobby for passage of the bill from Colorado Springs. A month ago that meant a sit-in on Representative Doug Lamborn’s (R-CO) office and a couple of weeks later, a protest in front of Colorado Springs City Hall. 

Passage of a ‘clean’ Dream Act, according to the National Immigration Law Center, would include provisions to ensure there is no funding for a border wall or increased border security, no funding for interior enforcement, no funding for detention centers, and no E-Verify (an electronic government employment eligibility verification form). 

That is one of the main issues with impending legislation surrounding the renewal of DACA, according to Fernandez-Diaz, “One of the things that we’re pushing to get rid of, is the idea that you should protect us, but then go after our families. We don’t want that, we’re not going to let that happen. And that’s what they’ve been trying to do. That’s what they did with DACA.”

Fernandez-Diaz adds lawmakers are largely playing a game of legislative chicken on behalf of DACA recipients, adding there are some bills that provide “to get those benefits, they want us to give away our due process rights…. it’s wrong [they’re] taking away our rights, just [so we can] get this benefit.”

Fernandez-Diaz expressed great frustration that the ‘good’ Dreamer narrative, the narrative of a DREAM Act beneficiary attending college and paying taxes etc., has continually been employed by lawmakers. But she argues the good dreamer narrative inherently criminalizes other undocumented people not receiving the waiver for higher education purposes.

“They’re saying we’re okay, but then they want more enforcement, and more people terrorizing our communities and we don’t want that, we’re not going to let that happen. Fernandez-Diaz emphasizes the bottom line of the Clean Dream Act is the assurance that DREAMers families would not be persecuted, or the government would not provide additional resources to go after undocumented immigrants.

The Colorado Springs Clean Dream Team has been meeting in different locations on campus on Sundays in preparation for their weekly action. The goal is to have effectively lobbied for a Clean Dream Act by the close of this legislative session in mid-December. 

As part of the final push, Dream Team members and CC students, Emma Kerr and Veronica Fernandez-Diaz have taken the block to go lobby for the Clean Dream Act in Washington D.C. They plan to be there for two weeks and plans involve: a rally in front of the White House, trainings on organizing strategy, and speaking to Congressmen about the bill. Any Congressional Action on the bill is slated to happen before the close of the legislative session Thursday December fourteenth. 

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