Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and a fellow Democrat, state Rep. Jonathan Singer of Longmont, made a plea Thursday for Congress to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
It was part of a national effort by local elected leaders to build support for the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, pending on Capitol Hill.
The bill could be debated this month, advocates contend. But without a deal to finance his border wall or other concessions on immigration policy, the Trump administration and Republicans who control the Senate appear unlikely to budge.
That would mean those who were protected by President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, referred to as the Dream Act, live under the threat of deportation to countries they left as children — including an estimated 17,300 Colorado residents. Trump ended the program nearly two years ago.
One of those is Alejandro Flores Muñoz, who joined Singer and Weiser on a conference call with reporters Thursday morning. Weiser and Singer have been out front supporting Dreamers, along with Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
"For me, this is a personal issue," Weiser said. "My mom was an immigrant. The idea we would demonize and scare people who have lived their whole lives here, it's wrong."
Weiser said national leaders must work together.
"We need action," he said. "We have the courts that so far have protected Dreamers, but the ultimate responsibility is with Congress to do what is common sense, it's humane, it's the right thing to do."
In March, Weiser joined a multi-state lawsuit challenging Trump administration on ending DACA.
Singer talked about steps the state of Colorado has taken to assist immigrants, including issuing driver's licenses and allowing undocumented residents more abilities to report human trafficking and wage abuse.
"These are things we want to see Washington, D.C., do," said Singer, a former social worker. "And the reason is these folks are our neighbors."
He said forcing undocumented immigrants into the shadows due to deportation dears hurts law enforcement, because those people won't come forward with information, even when they're the victims.
"We want to make sure immigration status has nothing to do with stopping violent crime," Singer said. "It shouldn't. ... The way that this community has been demonized — the way our neighbors have been demonized — unfortunately puts law enforcement at a disadvantage when we want to stop real bad guys."
Trump is expected to announce an immigration plan on Thursday, but it won't include Dreamers, because Democrats haven't been willing to deal, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters in Washington.
“Every single time we have put forward, or anyone else has put forward, any type of immigration plan and it’s included DACA, it’s failed. It’s a divisive thing,” said Sanders, according to the Washington Post.
In the conference call with Colorado media, Sergio Gonzales, deputy director of the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Immigration Hub, called Trump's position Thursday a repackaging of previous intransigent positions, "with a new round of attacks on immigrants."
The Dream and Promise Act was introduced in the U.S. House in March. It was co-sponsored by 230 Democrats, including all four Colorado Democratic representatives — Jason Crow of Aurora, Diana DeGette of Denver, Ed Perlmutter of Arvada and Joe Neguse of Boulder.
The legislation would protect those brought to the country illegally before they were 18 years old, who have lived in the U.S. at least four years, who pass a background check, and who have completed or are enrolled in high school.
In 2017, Colorado's U.S. senators, Democrat Michael Bennet of Denver and Cory Gardner of Yuma, co-sponsored a compromise bill for Dreamers, but it failed to advance.