City and County of Denver, CO

03/21/2017 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/21/2017 18:21

Denver Elevates and Celebrates the Voices and Faces of Immigration and Refugees in our Community

New initiative launched to highlight the story of immigration in Denver

DENVER - The contributions of immigrants to the fabric of the American experience are many. In that spirit, Mayor Hancock today joined with community leaders to bring a renewed face and voice to the issue of immigration, reminding ourselves of what makes this country - and this city - great, and the role that every person has in making the United States the country that it is today.

'America is a country founded on the promise of a good life free from persecution,' Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. 'Denver chooses to emulate the promise of this country, a promise that still rings true and will continue to ring true. Today, we stand for those who have immigrated to this city ready live a better life, ready to raise their families and ready to contribute to the beautiful fabric of a diverse city.'

The Mayor also proclaimed Tuesday, March 21 as Denver Immigration Day of Action, joining with cities across the country in reaffirming the city's commitment to supporting immigrants and immigrant communities. #MayorsStand4All

'What blossoms when refugees arrive in Denver is what we see across our city - thriving businesses, reciprocal learning, and a vibrant community,' said Melissa Theesan, Managing Director of the ECDC-African Community Center. 'Refugees have been forced to flee their country of origin due to no fault of their own. We thank our local and state leadership for their continued efforts to welcome and embrace refugees who rebuild their lives in Denver.'

'Our immigrant community members not only bring diversity and culture to our city, but they also bring a passion for improving our communities, a passion for entrepreneurship, and through their labor they bring economic activity that employs more than 83,000 Coloradans,' said Juan Gallegos of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. 'In the past two years alone, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition has been able to help over 2,300 people begin the application process for citizenship. We plan to continue this partnership with the city, while we continue to expand the ways in which we collaborate to protect members of our communities in general.'

The gathering today on the front steps of the City and County Building in Denver brought together community members and non-profit organizations to share the broader story of immigration and its lasting impact on the everyday lives of Denver residents and visitors.

Denver Police Officer PC Chanthavong told his story of growing up in a refugee camp in Thailand after his family was forced to flee their native Laos. In 1978, his family was granted a visa to come to the United States where they arrived in Denver with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Now a 23-year veteran of law enforcement, 16 of them spent with the Denver Police Department, Chanthavong said today, 'As a proud immigrant and now U.S. Citizen, I'm honored to give back to the community that has given me so much.'

Marjorie Silva, owner of Azucar Bakery in the Platt Park neighborhood, told her story of coming here from Peru 17 years go to pursue her dream of opening her own bakery in the United States. Her first store opened in 2006, a larger store in 2011, and she now employs 50 people. She said, 'We are not here to take advantage of anybody. We are smart, hardworking people who just want to part of the community. This is home.'

Slavica Park, a refugee who came to the United States from then war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina, told her story of coming to the United States 20 years ago, becoming a U.S. Citizen 15 years ago, and now helps other immigrants and refugees find the same welcoming space that Denver offered her to build better lives for themselves and their families. Park said today, 'It is through the work that I am able to see the power and the diversity of this wonderful city. The Denver community has given refugees and immigrants a lot, and we have brought many gifts to this community - our values, our multiple talents, our work ethic, our entrepreneurial spirit - but most of all our love for a country that has given us hope and a second chance to succeed.'

Yonis Noor, a Thomas Jefferson High School Senior from Somalia, told his story of growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to the United States at 6 year's old. Upon their arrival, his family, then-farmers in their native country, marveled at the everyday conveniences of a refrigerator that many take for granted. Yonis will be the first in his family to go to college and he said, 'Learning a new language, getting used to this new culture was all a difficult experience, but it was all worth it. Going to college, I want to study environmental science or engineering, and I want others to be able to share the same experience.'

These are just some of the many indelible marks that have been left on the Denver community because of immigration.

To honor and highlight the contributions of residents' immigrant histories, Mayor Hancock and the Denver Public Library launched the 'Our Immigrant Stories' multimedia initiative today.

'The Denver Public Library is privileged to work with our immigrant and refugee community. We work hard to provide support for immigrants from all over the world, helping connect people with information and resources that build Denver's successful global community,' said Michelle Jeske, Denver City Librarian.

Our Immigrant Stories will create an online catalogue of the experiences of immigrant Americans in the metro area, and will remind everyone of the diverse people who contribute to making Denver the beautiful home we are all proud of. Individuals can sign up to contribute their families' immigrant stories, which can be viewed at denverlibrary.org/ourimmigrantstories.

To fulfill the articulated needs of Denver's diverse residents, the City and County of Denver has also assembled an Immigrant and Refugee assistance pageto answer frequently asked questions and provide resources for identified needs.