Sharing personal stories is the most important tool to creating desired change in the world. That is the philosophy of United We Dream, a Washington, D.C.-based organization arguing for permanent protection for undocumented youth in America.
That's what one of the group's national organizers, Deyanira "Deya" Aldana, will do when she speaks at Colorado College on Thursday night.
"I invite people to listen to my story, ask me questions, let's get to know each other, and at the end of the day, you're free to have your opinions, and at the end of the day, I'm not money. I'm a human being, and I have a story," said Aldana, a 27-year-old Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipient.
Aldana will present a free, public lecture, "Stand Up, Fight Back: The Fight for a Dream Act," at 7 p.m. Thursday in the college's Bemis Great Hall, 920 N. Cascade Ave.
Aldana came to the United States from Veracruz, Mexico, at age 4, with her older brother and sister, to join their parents, who had migrated years before.
The children had visas that expired but did not return to Mexico because "this is a better quality of life for our family," she said.
Aldana received DACA at age 16.
"We've been very privileged, being protected from deportation and allowed to work legally," Aldana said. "Having three of her children under DACA was the reason my mother was able to sleep at night."
The Obama administration implemented the program in 2012, allowing some minors who arrived in the United States illegally before June 2007or have stayed illegally the opportunity to remain.
Some 690,000 DACA recipients, also called Dreamers, live in the U.S., but their protection status expired in October under President Donald Trump.
Congress has yet to agree whether Dreamers will be able to stay or be deported. Trump legally cannot extend the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty beyond the March 5 phaseout deadline he set.
In Tuesday's State of the Union address, Trump called for bipartisanship and unity among the nation's top leaders.
Aldana, who travels the nation to train teams of supporters, including a contingency in Colorado Springs, said she's "hungry for a win."
"Regardless of what hate and anti-immigrant rhetoric the Trump administration wants to build, our community will continue to fight," she said. "I wake up every morning and go to sleep every night hopeful."
In a perfect world, all undocumented youth would be protected from deportation, Aldana said, with legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship and "doesn't make it harder for our parents and other immigrants to live."
Like other Dreamers, Aldana said she's concerned that her 33-year-old brother, who was unable to renew his DACA status, and her 28-year old sister, a business owner in New Jersey, will be deported.
"I'm tired of having my brother live in fear, and my sister worry about losing her business," she said.
For those who are fearful, Aldana has this message: "That's OK. There are folks fighting for you in the halls of Congress."
Colorado College sociology professor Eric Popkin said the issue of immigrant rights has generated high interest and activism among many students.
"These DACA students give me such great hope and inspiration," he said. "They really are the thing that's good about this country: they're hardworking, good students with firm roots in this country who want to contribute."