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Javier Pineda was 12 years old when he saw snow for the first time. There wasn’t much of it, but the spring powder looked completely different than the white-adobe walls and cobblestone streets he was used to. In 2006, Pineda’s family moved from Pátzcuaro, Mexico, to the mountains of Summit County. Although he was first unsure of his new home, Pineda joined the Boy Scouts and began to acclimate to life in Colorado through the outdoors. Yet, even as he grew more comfortable here, Pineda faced unknown hurdles as an undocumented immigrant living in America.
The reality of his immigration status hit Pineda when he turned 18. Gathered at a local restaurant among loved ones, Pineda says he felt the severity of his legal status. “You can buy a lottery ticket now, you can smoke,” Pineda remembers being told. “But, honestly, for me, I was just like, ‘Yeah, but I can get deported now.’” While his peers were moving forward with the next phase of their lives, Pineda felt stuck. He didn’t have a social security number, he couldn’t attend college, and worse, he lived in fear that he could lose everything. “Growing up, I was always told I could be anything I wanted to, which is true,” Pineda, now 25 years old, says. “But, unfortunately, my legal status prevents that. I feel like I was sold an empty promise even though I have worked hard.”
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This weekend, Pineda—a recipient of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and cofounder of Mountain Dreamers, an organization that supports and lobbies on behalf of local immigrants and their families—will bike more than 120 miles through the Rocky Mountains to bring attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform and highlight the economic and social impact that immigrants have in the community.
Pineda will be joined by Mountain Dreamers’ executive director, Peter Bakken, and Carol Saade, president of the board, as they ride between Copper Mountain and Aspen over the course of two days to raise awareness for DACA and the American Dream and Promise Act. The latter bill passed the House in June, and will provide nearly 2.5 million immigrants—including Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and individuals with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)—with an opportunity to obtain permanent legal status in the U.S.
“People make it a political issue, but I think it’s time to focus on the morals,” Pineda says. “If DACA ends, and there is no other solution, lives are at stake.” This includes more than 15,000 Coloradans who are DACA recipients, according to the latest report from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Pineda was working at a restaurant in 2012 when President Obama introduced DACA. He was skeptical at first, and waited a year to apply. “It felt very uncomfortable coming out,” Pineda says. “I remember putting the package in the mail and feeling anxious.”
After his application was accepted, Pineda went from working in the service industry to working in a law office. At the same time, he continued his education, first at the University of Colorado–Colorado Springs, then at Denver Community College, with help from Colorado ASSET, a law that allows eligible undocumented students to receive in-state tuition and a College Opportunity Fund stipend to attend public colleges.
But then President Donald Trump was elected in 2016, and rescinded DACA a year later. Pineda moved back to the mountains out of fear of being deported. He says he saw a need in the community for an organization focused on immigration issues, which led him to co-found Mountain Dreamers in 2018.
Planning for the bike ride started about a year ago, but Pineda has been advocating for immigrant rights since he was a teenager. This past spring, Pineda lobbied Colorado’s congressional representatives to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, which if signed into law, would impact 2.5 million immigrants nationwide. For Pineda, who currently works as a paralegal at the law office of Eric Fisher and attends Colorado Mountain College full-time, passage of this law would mean accomplishing his dream of becoming a lawyer and ensuring that he would not be deported and separated from his four-year-old daughter. “I am as American as I can be, I truly don’t see myself anywhere else,” he says.
While the weekend’s bike ride is primarily about spreading awareness, Pineda also says the 120-plus miles symbolize the struggle the immigrant community, himself included, faces. Other advocates and bikers are welcome to join the trio on their journey, but note that the ride is self-supported. Anyone who joins is encouraged to bring their own food, water, and other resources.
Get involved: A kick-off party for the Javier’s Bike Tour for Dreamers ride takes place Friday, July 19 from 5:30–8:30 p.m. at Highside Brewing, 720 Main St., Frisco. The bike ride starts on Saturday, July 20 at 7:30 a.m. at Copper Mountain’s Vail Pass bike path. People are invited to message Mountain Dreamers via Facebook to meet up along the journey. Those interested in supporting Mountain Dreamers and the bike tour can make a donation online.