HAP award

Ricardo Perez, bottom center, with a group conducting advocacy work in western Colorado in Sept. 2019. (Courtesy photo/Ricardo Perez) 

The City of Montrose will make an official Immigrant Heritage Month proclamation next week (June 15) during a regular city council meeting.

Hispanic Affairs Project (HAP), a non-profit organization in Montrose that works to promote the integration of Latino immigrants in western Colorado, has been working with community members and local governments to make the proclamations.

Ouray, Grand Junction, Ridgway and Gunnison are the other local governments in the region that worked with HAP to make a proclamation.

“This year marks the seventh annual Immigrant Heritage Month,” said Elisa Rodriguez, community advocate with (HAP), in a press release. “Let’s celebrate the countless contributions of recent and long-time immigrants who have participated in the construction of this nation and continue to do so. In western Colorado, we recognize their contributions and how indispensable they are for the agricultural, construction, restaurant and hotel industries. Immigrants’ contributions are essential in boosting our economy and our communities’ vibrancy and prosperity.”

The proclamations from local governments on the Western Slope help highlight the contributions of immigrants, both past and present, and the cultural diversity found in Western Slope communities, the nonprofit said in a statement.

HAP Executive Director Ricardo Perez said in April that Immigrant Heritage Month “has been celebrated across the U.S. as an opportunity to explore our heritage and celebrate the shared diversity that forms the unique story of America.”

Immigrant Heritage Month, since its inception in 2014, has given people an opportunity to celebrate shared diversity and explore their own heritage. It also opens the door to share stories between immigrants and allies, learning how immigration benefits the economy, community and the nation.

HAP will also be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in September.

“Both celebrations are connected with our history and this helps us to remember that the USA is a nation of immigrants,” Perez said. “This is the most important asset to celebrate: ‘we the people’.”

President Joe Biden, on June 1, proclaimed National Immigrant Heritage Month. Biden, in the proclamation, pushed Congress to pass broad immigration legislation.

“Despite the progress our Nation has made since our founding, there is more work to be done to extend the full promise of America to all our people,” Biden wrote in the proclamation. “Nearly 11 million people in this country are undocumented — and it is time that the Congress acts by passing the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, the immigration reform plan that I introduced on day one of my Presidency. My plan would provide a pathway to lawful permanent residency and citizenship for these undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers, individuals with Temporary Protected Status, farm workers, and other essential workers who contribute to our Nation every day.”

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would allow those individuals to immediately apply for green cards, granting legal residency. After three years, and meeting requirements, the individuals can apply for citizenship.

The bill has yet to be voted on in the Senate or the House.

Immigrant legislation receiving support from governor

In April, Gov. Jared Polis signed into Colorado law measure HB21-1075, which replaces the term “illegal alien” with “workers without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services, a move that was lauded by HAP and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.

Polis signed a bill eliminating the requirement of verifying a person’s immigration status by regulatory agencies before issuing or renewing a license, and signed another that allows undocumented immigrants to receive public housing and benefits.

The three bills are part of a larger series of proposed immigrant legislation introduced during the 2021 legislative session. Other bills, like Senate Bill 131 and Senate Bill 87, are working their way through the House and Senate.

Supporters of the bills — which have largely been Colorado Democrats — say the new laws will make Colorado a more equitable place, after the pandemic revealed long-existing inequalities.

There are approximately 180,000 undocumented immigrants living in Colorado, according to the Pew Research Center.

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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