Repeal of DACA could hurt Colorado economy, critics say

DENVER -- With the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, critics say Colorado could lose more than the richness of diverse cultures.

Denver Public Schools was the first in the nation to hire DACA teachers, but the district does not track that number nor that of DACA students.

Tuesday's announcement does not mean those teachers will lose their jobs; the district will protect them as best it can, it said.

But thousands of others face uncertain futures -- which could translate into hundreds of millions of lost money.

“The only reason I was able to become a teacher is because DACA came out that specific year,” said Chilean-born Alejandro Fuentes, who became a teacher five years ago.

The DPS teacher told supporters at a rally on the Auraria campus on Tuesday that he’s been able to touch the lives of students at KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School for a second year.

“It makes me feel like we’ve taken so many steps back,” Fuentes said about the repeal of DACA.

Tuesday's announcement means sadness -- but not for him. He said his school will support him 100 percent.

But he hurts for those who will lose their jobs, and their ability to take care of themselves and their families.

“I cry because I don’t know what else to do. I wish there was a better way to fight back. I wish there so many things we could do,” he said.

Fuentes’ success in the classroom contributes to Colorado’s larger economic growth.

He’s one of the estimated 15,014 DACA workers in the state. There are 17,258 DACA recipients. And by removing them, it’s estimated the state will remove $856,946,796 in GDP a year.

“What this decision does is really slam the door on them. In a way, it’s a waste of talent. It’s a waste of potential. It’s a waste of ability these individuals bring to our community,” DPS superintendent Tom Boasberg said.

But the head of the district said he won’t let the decision hurt those within the school system.

“We will advocate for you. We will advocate for you with everything we have,” Boasberg said.

That means getting President Donald Trump to reverse his decision and Congress to take action to help DACA workers with compassionate legislation.

“I am going to be OK. It’s not just about me. It’s about my community and my community is under attack right now,” Fuentes said.

It’s why he has a little more peace than DACA workers in other fields.

“Today, DACA was repealed. Hopefully, that will push people like us and our allies to fight,” he said.

Without DACA, Fuentes said he would not have been allowed to become a teacher or a role model to other immigrant children.

He said he would have been forced to do the work of his father -- laying stucco on homes.