While organizing a march to show support of DACA, Alejandro Arellano Ramirez, 13, said he hoped to change people's minds.
"Hopefully, we just change people's minds that immigrants are bad people," Ramirez said Saturday in front of Lafayette City Hall.
Ramirez was one of seven students from Angevine Middle School who organized a march and rally in support of the immigration policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The program, started under former President Barack Obama, shields people brought to the United States as children from deportation. The protected status must be renewed every two years.
About 30 students, parents and residents made the 1 1/2-mile march from city hall to Waneka Lake Park Saturday afternoon, chanting "immigrant rights are human rights," "love, not hate, makes America great," "education, not deportation," and more along the way.
The students, all seventh graders, worked on the march throughout the year as their Public Achievement project. In the program, University of Colorado undergraduates go into students' classrooms once per week to help them learn about civic engagement and guide groups through projects and discussions tackling different social issues.
Gianna Rodriguez, 12, said some of the students in her group chose the issue of DACA because they had friends or family who could be affected.
"I knew if we got rid of DACA, it would not only affect the Lafayette community, but communities outside of Colorado," she said.
Lafayette Mayor Pro Tem Gustavo Reyna joined the students at Waneka Lake Park to express his support for DACA and immigrants.
"We have all this great talent and all this great potential in young people that we need as a society," Reyna said. Statistics show, he said, that immigrants often study and work in technology or science industries.
"It's really a crime that we aren't welcoming people," he said.
Reyna was born in Guatemala and came to the United States when he was young, he said, and knows what it's like to leave a country that's under "junta" or military control, and unsafe.
"What really moves me, especially in the city of Lafayette, is how our young people, from elementary school to middle school to high school, are so committed to doing the right thing," he said.
A number of beeping cars cheered on the march until it reached its destination, where at least 50 people gathered to listen to the students and others speak.
Bertha Olague, a 15-year-old student at Centaurus High School, talked about how her father had been deported when she was younger.
"It's been years now, but it still affects me," she said. Earlier, Olague said she supports the issue because it affects so many people, including some of her family members who are afraid of deportation. She hopes to help raise awareness of community resources for those without legal documentation.
Ana, a sophomore from CU who declined to provide her full name, attended the demonstration for a personal reason.
"I am a Dreamer," she said, referring to another term used for DACA recipients. Ana came to the United States when she was 2 years old.
"You live every day with a target on your back," she said.
Ana always has to think about what would happen if DACA is taken away. Right now, no new DACA applications are being accepted, and whether the program will continue or end has yet to be fully resolved at the federal level.
Still, Ana reminded everyone that there are also positive "what ifs," like what if everyone in the community came together to support Dreamers?
"These positive 'what ifs' are coming true," she said.
Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, email@example.com