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US Rep. Jared Polis bringing Colorado 'Dreamer' to Trump's first State of the Union address

January 29, 2018 Updated: January 29, 2018 at 10:46 pm
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Anarely Marquez, 21, a Colorado State University student and participant in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Courtesy photo)

When President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress Tuesday in his first State of the Union address, Anarely Marquez, a Colorado State University student and undocumented immigrant who was brought to the United States as a young child, will be in the room watching as a guest of U.S. Rep. Jared Polis.

Marquez, 21, is one of dozens of so-called Dreamers Polis and his fellow Democrats say will populate the audience for Trump's speech - just over a month before the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is set to expire as lawmakers grapple with a dispute that led to a government shutdown a week ago.

"I want to make sure I was able to bring Anarely from Colorado, so that when President Trump talks about his plan to deport young, aspiring Americans like Anarely, he will be able to look up in the gallery and see people his policies would negatively impact," Polis told Colorado Politics on Sunday.

"I spend a lot of my time trying to work to find a bipartisan agreement to allow Dreamers like Anarely to stay here and become one of our fellow citizens. Anarely has so much to give, and she's as American as you or I in every way except for law, and we simply need to pass a law that allows her to normalize her status and become in law the American that she is already in her heart."

Marquez acknowledged she's a bit anxious to depart on what will be her first trip to Washington, D.C., but said in an interview she believes she'll be bringing an important message to the Capitol.

I think it's something that somebody has to do. I'm nervous. Not everybody at the State of the Union is going to be on my side, and not everybody is going to be cheering for me, but I think it's something that has to be done. We have to be able to show the humanity of the issue."

Trump is expected to discuss his immigration proposal, which includes a $25 billion wall along the Mexican border and a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children - a bigger number than the roughly 800,000 immigrants who've participated in the DACA program.

Conservatives have dismissed the administration's initial plan as amounting to outright "amnesty" for the Dreamers, while Democrats have rejected a deal if it contains some elements Republicans say are essential, such as the border wall that was a centerpiece of Trump's presidential campaign.

"President Trump at least put some proposal out," Polis said. "Unfortunately, he's choosing to hold the Dreamers hostage for a wall or decreasing legal immigration, but, hopefully, this is just the beginning of a negotiation. I'm working in the Problem Solvers' Caucus and with my fellow Democrats and Republicans to find a legal way for Anarely to get right with the law and become a citizen."

Polis said Marquez will be meeting with lawmakers and their staff members in addition to attending the State of the Union. He's also promised her a night-time tour of the Capitol before she returns to Colorado on Wednesday.

Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, Marquez was 6 years old when she came to the United States with her parents, who stayed to help care for her ailing grandmother after a breast cancer diagnosis. Polis' office said Marquez graduated high school with a 4.3 GPA and participated in the ROTC program while enrolled. She's a triple-major in political science, ethnic studies and international relations at CSU, where she's organized support for Dreamers and immigration reform.

"Growing up, I always remember my parents telling me: 'Be good at school, but don't be too good, because then you'll stand out, and people will start asking questions,' or 'Don't do X, Y, or Z because you may draw attention, and you can be deported,'" she said in a statement, adding, "When DACA came around, it was something I could grasp on to. I didn't have to hide anymore. Now, I have given my heart to my community, and I refuse to go back into hiding."

She told Colorado Politics she's hopeful her story can help persuade lawmakers to come up with a solution to the fate of the Dreamers and other immigrants.

"It's not just numbers, it's people," she said. "We need to make sure we have an immigration system where we allow for good people with no criminal record to be allowed to be here and make the U.S. a better place. We should find a way for them to stay."

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