How A Deal To Help Dreamers Could Spell Doom For Their Parents

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Photo: Teacher Alejandro Fuentes in classroom (Staff)
Alejandro Fuentes, a teacher at KIPP Montbello College Prep in Denver, Colorado, takes questions from his students on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016.

More than 17,000 Coloradans are in limbo, waiting to see if Congress strikes a deal to help them and other young immigrants, brought to the U.S. as children, who have been granted temporary stays from deportation. Denver Public Schools teacher Alejandro Fuentes is among them, but he's nervous about what a deal would mean for his parents, who are undocumented.

The issue may come to a head in the next week: Some Democrats -- and at least one Republican -- have threatened to shut down the government as leverage to get Republicans to agree to give Dreamers a path to permanent legal residency in the U.S.

If that fails, Congress will have until March, when the program currently protecting these 17,000 Coloradans and many more immigrants around the U.S., will end. President Trump made the decision to end that program, but says he's open to a deal to protect Dreamers if it includes funding for more enforcement and his planned border wall with Mexico.

That may be the most likely scenario for replacing DACA, but it worries Fuentes, who came to the U.S. from Chile when he was 4 years old.

CPR News previously interviewed Fuentes about anxiety in his school, KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School, about President Trump's election; and about his work as a teacher who is protected by DACA.

Highlights From The Interview

On how he feels about a deal that would help Dreamers but increase immigration enforcement:

“I would be really, really happy at the idea that this country that I’ve grown up in would finally grant me the opportunity to be a resident or a citizen, and that’s not something that I’ve ever had before.

"But I would be really worried about what that would mean for my parents, and whether or not they would be able to live a life that would basically allow them to do the work that they need to do in order to provide for themselves and my little sister and my brand new niece. Even though she’s a U.S. citizen, they’re the ones who are providing for her right now.

"So, I don’t know, I think it would be a very contradictory feeling within my own heart about whether or not this was good news or bad news.”

On why his mother, who lives in California, doesn't want to live in Chile again:

“What she fears is going back to Chile, a country she hasn’t seen in 24 years, and not being able to come back to the United States -- the place where she raised me, the place where my little sister was born and raised, the place where she met her husband, the place where she’s endured a lot of hardships but also has a community. Despite what Chile might have to offer, this is now her home.”

On how he'd respond to those who want immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally, or overstayed their visas, to be punished:

“What would we say about all the individuals who came over a long time ago and decided to take the land away from the natives? Should we therefore be evicting ourselves as Americans because these lands don’t necessarily belong to us? I think everybody ends up making choices that are the best choices for them at the time.”