Forum features student stories, ACLU presentation

female speaker standing at the podium

Tuesday morning in the St. John Francis Regis Chapel, a Regis graduate asked important questions about his future.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to do if I have to stop working,” he said. “Am I going to lose my house? Am I going to be able to make my payments? What’ll happen in my life?”

The graduate’s uncertainty was prompted by his status as the son of undocumented immigrants to the United States. While national laws regarding immigration and documentation are under Supreme Court review, the Regis College Center for Service Learning hosted a forum Nov. 19 to provide a space for dialogue and education surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

DACA was implemented in 2012 to protect children of undocumented immigrants from deportation and provide them with a work permit. Should DACA be declared illegal by the Supreme Court, many Americans — including some Regis students and alumni — may face new questions about their path to citizenship, employment status, housing and more. 

The forum’s featured event was a presentation by ACLU Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes, who updated the Regis community about DACA. Before Maes spoke, students shared stories written by Regis classmates whose parents are undocumented. A current Regis student and a graduate also shared their own stories. 

“I greatly wish that I could be here standing in front of you to tell this story, but I don’t have that luxury,” one of the anonymous students wrote.

Maes, who oversees legislative work that impacts civil liberties at the state and local level, then shared details about DACA, including the program’s history, federal policy surrounding it, and its outcomes. 

Maes also shared information from ACLU’s research in the Aurora Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center — where a large number of undocumented immigrants are detained. In the past two years, the population of the center grew from 500-plus people to more than 1,200, Maes said. ACLU has proposed regular audits of the center, which is run by private contractor GEO Group, to assess its ability to take care of those it detains.

“Because [the center] is private, it is able to operate under a bit of a shroud of secrecy,” Maes said. “What we want to do is open it up.”

Maes said ACLU is championing a legal defense fund that would be used on behalf of those detained at the Aurora center. 

The Center for Service Learning also provided resources for how to support undocumented students on campus. Members of the Regis community may seek volunteer opportunities with organizations such as Casa de Paz, an Aurora-based nonprofit that offers housing, meals and other support to families that have been separated by immigrant detention. 

“The future of DACA and the future of our Dreamers hasn’t yet been written,” Maes said. “We can be that author.”