Hours after the U.S. Senate rejected four immigration overhauls, leaving hundreds of thousands of so-called "Dreamers" in limbo, Colorado Springs residents gathered to offer their opinions on the subject.
City Council President Richard Skorman moderated the local panel, which was planned in advance of the Senate votes. Each of the six panelists answered questions from the audience, which ranged from how to keep the United States "a nation of laws" to how to support the undocumented immigrant community to how keep immigration discussions from becoming "racialized."
Most of the panelists began with brief remarks in Spanish to the crowd at the Southeast and Armed Services YMCA, 2190 Jet Wing Drive.
Rob Blancken, a 32-year Colorado Springs resident, told the panel he doesn't want to see Colorado Springs become a "sanctuary city" and encouraged would-be citizens to find a legal route.
"We are a nation of laws," and it's the fairness of the county's laws that sets it apart, he said.
He then asked the panelists whether they support secure borders and national defense.
Thanking him for voicing his opinion, Assistant Mitchell High School Principal Amy Sanchez-Martinez said achieving citizenship can be lengthy and difficult.
"I wish this were a very clear, cut-and-dry issue, but unfortunately, it's not," she said.
Amelia Chavez attended the event with her friend and North Middle School classmate, Ansleigh Groth. The 11-year-old girls both asked questions about how to make Colorado Springs a safer, more inclusive place.
"I have often learned that Colorado Springs is a community, and most times, the United States is a community of all people of all races and origins and creeds, which makes the repeal of DACA especially disheartening," Amelia said, referring to the President Obama-era program that protects immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children from deportation. President Donald Trump has rescinded the program but federal judges have so far blocked his order from taking effect.
"So, I guess my question is: What steps can our community take to make sure that 'Dreamers' both feel safe and are safe in our community?" Amelia asked
Nayda Benitez, a DACA recipient and student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, said it comes down to "being aware and educating oneself on what is actually being proposed in Congress and educating oneself, as well, on who we are putting in power - and if it's not the people that need to be there, then unseating them."
But it's not just DACA recipients who need support, she said - it's the entire undocumented community.
Later, Amelia said she was "really proud of our community - about how we are a divided community, but we can still come together and have a civil conversation."
"I want to raise my children with a level of awareness of injustices that happen, and show them how they can fix them," said her mother, Morgan Chavez.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198