DACA Has Denver Roots. Those Dreamers Are Still Fighting For A Real Path To Citizenship

Javier Hernandez and Veronica Gomez in President Obama’s reelection campaign office in Denver in June 2012.

A fight that some say began just off Speer Boulevard continues.

On a warm day in June 2012, Javier Hernandez and Veronica Gomez had a plan. Both in their 20s, Hernandez had been living in Colorado for about a year, and Gomez was passing through. That day they walked into an office on Acoma Street and 9th Avenue, just off Speer Boulevard in Denver. It was the local headquarters of the Obama for America re-election campaign. Hernandez and Gomez wanted to get the candidate’s attention.

They had a singular message. They wanted Obama to take executive action to stop deportations of Dreamers like themselves. Congress had failed to pass a bipartisan immigration bill two years earlier, and Hernandez and Gomez knew they couldn’t count on Congress to take action anytime soon. They saw Obama as their only real hope.

Obama had guaranteed to take action on immigration reform in his first term. Instead, he had deported record numbers of people, and while he focused on those with criminal records, young people without criminal histories were also swept up in the wave of deportations. As Obama sought the support of the Latino community in his re-election bid, advocates wanted to force his hand.

That day in June, Hernandez wore a black T-shirt with red letters that said, “We will no longer remain in the shadows.” He and Gomez were both brought to the U.S. by their parents as young children and had not gained legal status in this country. They had grown up knowing only the U.S. as their home, yet without all the opportunities afforded to citizens.

Hernandez said their plan to show up and refuse to leave a campaign office could have gotten them arrested for trespassing and put them on a path to getting deported. Looking back on it recently, he said he knew the risks, but he wasn’t afraid. In fact, he said getting arrested was the goal.

By Rachel Estabrook for DENVERITE
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