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‘Dreamers at UW: A DACA Symposium’ in Laramie Saturday

February 19, 2018

Several speakers, including University of Wyoming students and the first Hispanic Associated Students of UW (ASUW) vice president, are scheduled to discuss the ongoing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and how it is affecting Wyoming residents.

“Dreamers at UW: A DACA Symposium,” in the UW Conference Center from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested to schedule meals throughout the day. To RSVP, call Sophia Beck, in UW’s American Studies Program and Department of History office, at (307) 766-3898 or email

The symposium, the first of its kind in Laramie, is to educate the public about the realities of the program, organizers say. UW’s American Studies Program is the primary sponsor of the event, with additional support from UW’s Office of the President, the student organization MEChA, the School of Culture, Gender and Social Justice, the Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research and St. Paul’s Newman Center.

DACA is an immigration policy that has allowed individuals who entered the country as minors -- and either entered or remained in the country illegally -- to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for work permits. As of 2017, more than 800,000 individuals were enrolled in the program created by DACA, with approximately 700 living in Wyoming. The policy was established by the Obama administration in June 2012 and rescinded by the Trump administration last September.

The policy is currently in the hands of Congress, which is debating the issue.

Organizers of the Laramie event have put together a full day of speakers/panels to discuss the issue. The two co-chairs are longtime advocate for undocumented students Lilia Soto, a UW American studies and history associate professor, and Travis Helm, a Laramie immigration attorney and UW graduate. They will give opening remarks at 9 a.m. Also featured will be the return on campus of Dominic Martinez, senior director of the Office of Inclusion and Outreach at the University of Colorado-Denver.

Martinez, a UW graduate from Rawlins, is the former ASUW vice president from 1996-97. He and former ASUW President Jason Thompson were the first two men of color to be elected to UW’s top administrative positions for UW’s student government.

The remaining schedule is:

-- 10:45 a.m.-noon: “Wyoming DACA Tales,” panel discussion featuring: graduate student Jose Rivas and undergraduate student Bianca Infante De La Cruz, both from UW; and students representing a Wyoming community college and high school. Josh Sainz, UW graduate and MEChA adviser, is the moderator.

-- Noon-1:15 p.m.: Lunch at the UW Conference Center.

-- 1:30-3 p.m.: “DACA, the University and Community Engagement,” panel discussion featuring: Sainz; UW Professor Cecelia Aragon, Latina/o Studies Program director; Emily Monago, UW chief diversity officer, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and Sabrina King, from the Laramie American Civil Liberties Union office. Infante De La Cruz is the moderator.

-- 3:15-4:45 p.m.: “DACA at other Universities,” panel discussion featuring: Martinez; and Meng So, director of the undocumented student program at the University of California-Berkeley. Rivas will moderate the panel.

-- 5-6 p.m.: Mass at St. Paul’s Newman Center.

-- 6 p.m.: Closing dinner at UW Conference Center.

Organizers say DACA is a timely issue because, when Trump ended DACA, he created a March 5 deadline for protections to end. That deadline was scheduled to give Congress time to act to save the program. But, while lawmakers have continued to use that date as a target, court action and the realities of the program have made meeting any deadline unclear. As a result, there is no date that the protections will actually run out for DACA recipients who came to the U.S. as children, but uncertainty remains about whether they could be deported at any time.

The local event will give the DACA conference committee an opportunity to put a “human face and story to the immigration debate,” Rivas says.

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