Congresswoman Diana DeGette

Representing the First District of Colorado
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What Will Trump Presidency Mean for us, South High School Students Ask Rep. Diana DeGette

Jan 18, 2017
In The News

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette plans to attend President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, but as the longtime Democratic congresswoman told a classroom of South High School students on Tuesday, it’s more about supporting the institution than the actual man taking the oath of office.

“It’s about the stability and the strength of the United States as a country, that we have a peaceful transition and we respect the results of our election process,” DeGette said. “It’s important, even if you don’t like the guy.”

DeGette, a South alumna herself, met with about 50 students for a wide-ranging question-and-answer session during which many students expressed concerns about Trump’s presidency and how it could impact their lives.

That includes Republicans’ planned repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the ongoing uncertainty around refugees and undocumented immigrants, particularly those young people eligible for the DREAM Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Shambel Zeru, a 19-year-old senior, urged DeGette to push Trump’s nominees to affirm the importance of the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program.

Zeru came to Colorado with his brother in 2013 with the support of Lutheran Family Services, after fleeing his native Eritrea at age 12 and living in a refugee camp in Ethiopia for four years.

“I cannot go back to my country because I fled from Eritrea. I have no right to go back to the country because the government doesn’t like me. So, where am I going to go? To the camp? To somewhere else where I don’t know really what to do?” Zeru said. “It’s really a huge problem.”

Many refugees are worried they could be deported or otherwise sent back under the Trump administration, he said.

“Personally, I am worried that I might not get the opportunity that I deserve,” said Zeru, who plans to attend college after high school.

Trump’s position on foreign visas was at the top of Noor Ul Ain Khatri’s mind.

The 16-year-old is in the middle of a year-long exchange program at South and said if Trump were to “abolish” the J-1 exchange visitor visa, as he floated in the past, she could be forced to go back to Pakistan early.

“If I want to do something in the future, that will affect it a lot,” she said. “It would even be hard to come back as a tourist.”

“This was an opportunity to be a cultural ambassador for my country,” she said. “Representing your country in a foreign country is definitely a great privilege.”

For her part, DeGette said she has signed on to legislation that would allow Dreamers, a group of young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, to stay in the country and asked the government to keep their information confidential and not provide it to law enforcement.

“We’re going to fight to make sure that every student who is here is able to realize their dreams,” DeGette said. “That means going to college. That means getting the job they want.”

During the hour-long session, the Denver congresswoman made it clear no topic was out of bounds — including one student’s question of “Do you respect Donald Trump?”

“I think they need to take away his Twitter account,” DeGette said to a chorus of laughter.

“I don’t think it’s dignified at all for the president of the United States to be saying those things on social media,” she continued. “That’s not something I can really respect him for, but I do respect the fact that he was elected under the rules that we have as president of the United States.”