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Testimony from A+’s Director of Advocacy, Valeria Conteras, on bill for immigration fund

House Bill 1194 was introduced by Representative Tipper and Ricks to ensure that people have access to representation when facing immigration courts. The Colorado Immigrants Right Coalition (CIRC) worked tirelessly to support and advocate for this bill. CIRC along with the Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, also worked to bring witnesses to testify in favor of this bill to inform how important a HB-1194 is for Colorado students who are immigrants or who have immigrant family members. Thanks to the hard work of CIRC and the Spring Institute, HB-1194 has passed to the House Appropriations Committee!

Valeria’s Testimony:

Good afternoon Chairman Weissman and the members of the Committee. Thank you Representative Tipper and Ricks for bringing this bill forward.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today and talk to you about why you should support House Bill 1194 to ensure everyone has a day in court with the access to proper legal representation. 

My name is Valeria Contreras and I live in Aurora, Colorado. I am an educator, organizer and advocate. When I was in my last year of undergrad at CU Boulder my father was deported. I was 22 and considered an adult that had access to mental health resources and even then I was completely devastated and distraught over the separation of my family. I failed a course and barely passed the others that semester. And to this day the trauma of being separated from my father affects me. Some days it weighs heavier than others. 

As an educator to middle school students in Denver, I witnessed the emotional distress of students who had undocumented parents and who were in the process of being deported. I also had students who were in constant fear that their parents would be taken away. On Election Day of 2015 there had been several warnings circulating on social media that there would be ICE raids in Denver. Several students were absent that day. And the students who were in school were terrified and had several questions of what would happen to them if their parents were taken away. There was no academic instruction that day. I saw first hand how this affected students’ ability to learn. Students who are not mentally and emotionally healthy struggle to learn. I experienced this first-hand as an adult. Imagine what a separation could do to a child. At the very least it would be an obstacle to their academic success. 

House Bill 1194 could have significantly impacted my father’s life and mine when I was a senior in college. An opportunity like this would have meant the world to me. House Bill 1194 has the ability to positively impact the lives of Colorado students today. 

I ask that you vote YES on House Bill 1194 because no one should face the complex and broken federal immigration system alone.