Refugees in Colorado

As the refugee crisis continues to grow and the numbers of forcibly displaced people reach a staggering amount, over 65 million people worldwide, I think it is important that we look at the positives that refugees bring to our communities. Though the US does not host the majority of refugees (see figures below), in the past 9 years the state of CO has resettled over 18,000 refugees into the state. The leading groups aiding this transition are Lutheran family Services, the African Community Center and the International Rescue Committee. 

First it is important to define who is a refugee and a displaced person. Men, women and children fleeing war, persecution, natural disaster and political upheaval are each subjected to exploitation, violence and immense danger. They are uprooted from their homes and communities, with little warning, enduring great hardship during their flight. A person become a refugee when he/she crosses borders to seek safety in another country. A person is displaced when he/she is forced to flee home, but remains within the borders of their native country.

What is the difference between a refugee and a migrant?

Refugees are forced to flee their homes and seek safety in another country, often times without warning. Migrants are people who make a conscious decision to leave their countries to seek a better life elsewhere. The key word is FORCED. Refugees are forced to flee, they do not choose to leave their homes with little to nothing.

Most refugees hope to return home. But as the prolonged violence continues many attempt to integrate into the local community in which they have first sought safety. This can take years and many refugees become trapped in a limbo world where they cannot leave the refugee camp. As this will negate their applications for local integration or resettlement. Resettlement is the last option for refugees and only a small fraction of them will ever have this opportunity.

Why should CO accept refugees?

Refugees are the very definition of perseverance and strength. They must rebuild their lives and overcome traumatic and tragic circumstances. The majority embrace their newly adopted homeland with tremendous vitality and success. Many go on to work, attend colleges, build professions, start businesses, purchase homes, raise children and contribute to their communities. Refugees can apply for citizenship after having been resident in the United States for five years, but this is not a requirement. Refugees are permitted to remain in the United States as Legal Permanent Residents. Many refugees eventually obtain citizenship and become fully participating members of society. They become Americans.

By accepting and embracing refugees, Colorado widens its diversity and cultural understanding, improves its economic fortune and serves as an example of all that noble in the United States. As Governor Hickenlooper stated in February of 2017,  “I don’t see a risk to our way of life or a threat or a danger, I see neighbors, friends, colleagues, the expanding family that really is Colorado.”