Organizing around DACA and immigration issue picks up steam
The distances between communities in the central-mountain region and the prospects of wintertime driving can make in-person organizing efforts difficult.
Recently, our two Regional Organizing Managers turned to virtual organizing over zoom to help educate people about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in light of recent court rulings and to help answer questions — and dispel misinformation — on other immigration issues.
The success of those efforts have exceeded our expectations and will help inform our work moving forward.
Alan Muñoz joined Voces Unidas in June as a Regional Organizing Manager for Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties (basically the communities from Parachute to Aspen). Regional Organizing Manager Mateo Lozano joined us in August to oversee Summit, Lake and Eagle counties (from Gypsum to Summit County and Leadville).
As DACA recipients who grew up in the central-mountain region, Alan and Mateo actually met through immigration organizing prior to coming to work at Voces Unidas.
“When we came together at Voces Unidas, we knew (DACA) was still a big topic for our community that needed to be addressed,” Alan said. “In facilitating those conversations we were looking for a space that was local, that offered education, but also the ability to advocate for yourself and your community.”
The need for those conversations increased in October of last year, when a federal appeals court ruled that President Obama’s DACA program was illegal.
“This is what catapulted us to say ‘we have to do something,’” Alan added. “There was a lot of misinformation, a lack of understanding, and also a lack of communication for folks who are DACA recipients, or people who couldn’t qualify as a result of President Trump’s efforts to rescind it.”
Added Mateo: “Following that ruling, and anticipating that the Supreme Court will uphold it, we knew we needed to serve as a resource for information and to help prepare the community to find other avenues for immigration that don’t just rely on DACA.”
The pair decided to launch a virtual series that would bring together community leaders from each of their regions to hear from subject-matter experts, and to help answer questions.
The first forum featured Marissa Molina, who serves as FWD.us’ Colorado State Immigration Manager, and in 2019 became the first DACA recipient appointed to any state board when Gov. Jared Polis appointed her to the Metropolitan State University Board of Trustees. Molina provided a rundown on the appeals court’s decision, what it meant moving forward, and what DACA is going to look like in the next few years.
For the second forum in January, organizers recruited noted immigration attorney Hans Meyer, of the Meyer Law Office, who touched on the legal avenues available to DACA recipients, as well as immigrants who are undocumented or have another status.
“He touched on just about every current avenue that immigrants can benefit from — from visas and family-sponsored to naturalization, asylum and legal entry,” Mateo said. “To be able to share information on pathways and to provide a space for people to ask questions is incredibly valuable. There’s lots of misinformation out there, and I think participants understand the value of having a trustworthy lawyer, speaking in a safe space created by a trustworthy organization.”
Organizers expected 30 people to join the second virtual session, and instead hosted more than 50.
“This phase of virtual sessions has led me to understand that we need to expand them — provide spaces for people to learn more without having to pay for a lawyer,” Mateo said.
Tentatively, we are looking at holding an in-person event with community leaders in March in each community organizers' region. The idea will be to continue organizing people to make efforts -- particularly at the state and local levels, but also at the federal level -- to improve the quality of life for DACA recipients and immigrants in general.
“While we may be unlikely to get comprehensive federal immigration reform anytime soon, that does not mean we shouldn’t prepare to be a part of it, and, in the meantime, organize around immigration at the state and local level around issues like access to health care and workers compensation,” Alan said.
Another idea to come from the sessions is creating a community-resource guide on immigration that could highlight a network of trusted resources such as immigration attorneys and other experts — something to communicate where to find legitimate help, not something that is a scam.
If you’re interested in learning more, keep your eyes out for emails from Voces Unidas or send an email to Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mateo at email@example.com.