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Gov. Hickenlooper & Lt. Gov. Lynne welcome refugees at event celebrating their contributions to Colorado

posted Feb 22, 2017, 5:58 PM by Nicole Grabowski - CDHS   [ updated Feb 22, 2017, 6:07 PM ]
Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne today welcomed refugees to Colorado during a celebration at Union Station honoring the many contributions refugees make to Colorado. The event, sponsored by Union Station Alliance, brought together 75 refugees – most of whom had arrived in Colorado just weeks or months earlier – from countries including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. 

The event also brought together Coloradans who work to support refugees as they begin their new lives, including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, as well as leaders of Colorado’s three resettlement agencies: the African Community Center, the International Rescue Commission and Lutheran Family Services.

“It’s an honor to welcome these families to their new home. They have made great sacrifices to be here and spent years navigating the world’s most stringent vetting system. We must recognize the humanity of the world’s refugee crisis,” said Gov. Hickenlooper. “Just a few days ago, we marked the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of thousands of Japanese American citizens in the name of national security. As we reflect on the mistakes of our past, we must also learn from them. If we turn away these refugees, many of whom served beside our troops in combat zones, we risk pushing others all over the world toward terror.”

Historically, Colorado has resettled 2 to 3 percent of all refugees admitted to the United States each year. In 2016, Colorado resettled 1,960 refugees. Until the Trump Administration’s executive order, Colorado had expected 2,195 refugees would resettle in the state in Federal Fiscal Year 2017. The executive order could decrease this number by half.

“Refugees contribute in ways large and small to the fabric of Colorado’s culture and economy. They are the most vetted members of our society and have the same goals all Americans do: to provide for their families, give their kids new opportunities and live safe and peaceful lives,” said Lt. Gov. Lynne. “In most cases, refugees come from war-torn countries. They’ve lost family, friends and loved ones. They don’t choose to be refugees from the only country they’ve known, but they yearn for a new start in this land of opportunity. Most refugees that come to Colorado are reuniting with family. They work in industries that are desperate for labor and start businesses that employ other refugees and Coloradans. Over the last 37 years, Colorado has opened its doors to nearly 60,000 peaceful, law-abiding refugee families. We call on President Trump to rescind his order immediately and let Colorado continue to build a more peaceful, prosperous state.”

Overall, Colorado has been one of the most successful states at helping its recently resettled refugees find work. In Federal Fiscal Year 2016, refugees resettled in Colorado found jobs within 84 days on average. So far in FFY 17, refugees seeking work have found jobs within 61 days on average. One great example of how refugees are contributing to Colorado’s economy is through Sage Hospitality. Since December 1997, the company has employed 458 newly arrived refugees. Sage has hired 36 newly arrived refugees since last October, totaling almost ten percent of all jobs new refugees have gained in recent months.

“Colorado is welcoming and wants us to be here,”said Farduus, a refugee from Somalia who was resettled in Colorado in 2014.“They believe in our contributions, in what we bring to the state and to our economy.”

Persons and families seeking to enter the United States as refugees must successfully clear multiple background checks. These checks are conducted by agencies including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UN), U.S. Resettlement Support Center, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Defense, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

Each of these background checks is done independently, and, at any time, an agency can halt a refugee’s application for entry. Federal agencies review biographical and biometric (i.e. iris screens, etc.) information about applicants and ensure their correct identity. They also conduct fingerprinting and DNA checks. It can take months to years to clear the initial UN screening and an average additional two years to clear the U.S. vetting process.

“History is a witness to the contribution of immigrants into making America the greatest nation in the history of mankind. Immigrants make America great, and they make Colorado great, by bringing together the best the world has to offer into the melting pot that drives our innovation, creativity and advancement,” said Neb Asfaw, a Colorado business man and native of Ethiopia, as well as one of Colorado’s leading community organizers within the Ethiopian community.

“We know the value that immigrants have delivered to our economy for generations. We invite people who bring differing perspectives and new ideas because their views lead to more innovation, better solutions and the promise of progress for our region. We take great pride in welcoming newcomers to Colorado, whether our neighbors or colleagues, because Coloradans know good ideas and hard work have been and will continue to be the keys to our success,” said event attendee and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Kelly Brough.

Nicole Grabowski - CDHS,
Feb 22, 2017, 5:58 PM