After an intense election season Democrats in Colorado are turning the wheels and their focus toward immigration reform.
In a moving event Friday morning Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall officially petitioned Congress to push for immigration reform and to pass the DREAM Act.
"I am here today doing my call to Congress to pass the DREAM Act and fair humane comprehensive immigration reform," Udall said to students at Escuela Tlatelolco. "Not only is it the right thing to do but passing immigration reform and the DREAM Act will expand opportunities for all of us and improve our country's economy."
Udall was accompanied by fellow Democrats at the school in Denver, including Colorado Representative Crisanta Duran and President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Guillermo "Bill" Vidal.
"Earlier this year Obama took a bold but long overdue step in helping millions of DREAMers with his deferred action directive, he reminded us of the work we need to do to finish the job," Udall said.
For Udall immigration reform is the second most important issue Congress must address, only behindmaking government fiscally sound, he said. In order to come up with a quick and comprehensive solution for immigration, Udall indicated that he and his allies will be reaching out to Republicans. Presenting the economic benefit of immigration reform may be one way to do it.
"It is well documented that the future of our economy will depend on the labor force that immigration provides us," Vidal said.
With Congress still divided and a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, the original proposal of the DREAM Act will likely be revisited, Udall said. There might be some changes to the original proposal but providing a legal path to young undocumented immigrants will remain the legislation's main goal, he said.
Change at the state level may come sooner. After the Tuesday elections, Democrats gained control of the Colorado State House and maintained control of the Senate. Democrats went from slim minority in the House to a comfortable 37-28 majority.
Rep. Crisanta Duran will be championing the ASSET bill in the legislature, which will offer a lower tuition for undocumented immigrants to attend college if they meet certain requirements.
"We cannot wait any longer for the future of our students in this country," Duran said. "This bill is a road to economic opportunity and economic recovery, because when you give people a fair shot in life and access to college there is nothing that can stop them."
Colorado Republicans have expressed interest in addressing immigration policy. Chairman of Colorado Republican Party Ryan Call told The Denver Post last week that he believed Latinos cared about jobs and the economy but Republicans "need to address other concerns of this community and create clear plans on issues like immigration and, for example, lower tuition rates for undocumented students as well."
Addressing these issues has become critical for both parties as the Latino vote showed its force during the 2012 election. President Barack Obama received the majority of the Hispanic vote including in key states like Colorado where he carried 75 percent of Latino vote. Republican Mitt Romney received the lowest Hispanic support in 16 years.
After giving his remarks Vidal shared his own immigration story and how it relates with many of the DREAMers' stories.
"I am like one of the DREAMers," he said. "My parents did the unthinkable actually out of their sense of desperation and sent my brothers and I unaccompanied to the United States where we grew up in an orphanage and they did this when I was 10 years old."
Vidal was reunited with his parents four years later.
The event wrapped on a more emotional note as Ana Calderon, a young undocumented immigrant, told her story of how she came to the U.S. when she was only 3 years old.
"We got plenty of scholarships," said Calderon describing the time after her sister and her graduated high school. "I finally knew I was going to go to the university because of all the scholarships. When it came time to go to the university they had to take my scholarships away because I was undocumented - all that hard work."