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CSU-Pueblo University student light candle lanterns at a rally in support of university Dreamer students in 2017. (PULP Colorado)

For CSU-Pueblo community, DACA decision is a relief, ‘step in the right direction’

PUEBLO, Colo. — Last week’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision that the Trump administration was wrong in its effort to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program came as a relief to many, including the Colorado State University-Pueblo community.

“I was with some family in New Jersey and I actually got a text from a friend who told me (about the decision),” said 21-year-old CSU-Pueblo senior Valentina Pons. “She was like ‘DACA is okay, they voted against revoking it.’”

Pons, who will graduate next year with a major in psychology and minor in Spanish, and her older brother were brought to the U.S. by their parents 18 years ago from Uruguay. The siblings originally came on tourist visitors visas, which eventually expired. They haven’t been back to their native country in all that time. The San Luis Valley in southern Colorado has been Pons’ home since she was four years old. 

She said she doesn’t even remember coming to the U.S.

About 15,000 other DACA recipients, also called “dreamers”, live in Colorado. There are more than 650,000 across the country, most of them originally from Mexico.

Valentina Pons is a senior at CSU-Pueblo and DACA recipient. Photo provided.

Pons was the only dreamer in her small San Luis Valley high school, but attending CSU-Pueblo brought her closer to others who share a similar experience, she said. 

Pons and a group of CSU-Pueblo dreamers were texting after the decision.

“When we heard the news. It was very relieving,” she said of the group she’s become close to since attending the university.

But they recognize it’s not the end of the road. Feelings of relief have gelled to a realization there’s still more to do.

The decision came down to a technicality. The Supreme Court justices in the majority said the Trump administration hadn’t provided proper legal justification to end the program, which was implemented eight years ago by former President Barack Obama. Because of DACA Pons and can go to school and work, which she does.

Pons said over the weekend she spent time talking to other dreamers about what they should do next. They agreed on urging people to vote, since they can’t, should be a major focus.

“It’s important, it’s very important,” Pons said.

CSU-Pueblo President Timothy Mottet said in a press call last week he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the decision. 

“I do believe there’s work ahead of us obviously, but it’s a step in the right direction,” he said, pointing to two major reasons why the decision was significant for the university, which he has taken to calling “the people’s university.”

“The first is that we are an Hispanic serving institution,” he said. “… a part of our charge is to serve Hispanics.” 

About 35% of CSU-Pueblo’s student body identifies as Hispanic, and so deciding against revoking DACA, “allows us to do the work that we’re poised to do, the work that we’ve been doing, and I think the work that we’ve been doing really well,” Mottet said. 

CSU-Pueblo’s role as a regional university, one that serves students like Pons, from outside of Pueblo, is important too. 

“When we’re able to provide an education for individuals who are motivated to earn a college degree, that’s the group that we try to develop. And we know that through their degree, they’re able to make significant contributions to their families, to their workplaces, and also to the communities where they work and they live,” Mottet said. “They lift and elevate all people so all of that is directed at also driving economic development for Pueblo and southern Colorado.”

Outspoken support from Mottet has been important to Pons. 

“When I’m on campus, I feel heard,” she said. “That’s what I love about the school in general. They always have a voice to be heard. That’s what I love about the president. He makes sure we’re all feeling welcomed and protected.”