Colorado’s New American Integration Initiative Releases First Annual Report
DENVER- Today, the New American Integration Initiative published its first annual report, which details what the initiative has accomplished in its first year and what opportunities lie ahead.
In recognition of refugees’ and immigrants’ significant contributions to Colorado’s economy and culture, in November of 2019 the State of Colorado launched its New American Integration Initiative, charged with identifying and addressing issues related to integration. The initiative is also designed to foster enhanced inclusion of New Americans in Colorado’s civic, social, and economic life, and ensure equitable opportunities for newcomers; it is housed under the Governor’s Office and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE).
“The report provides to you information on Colorado immigrants’ contributions to the greatness of our state and, equally important, the opportunities ahead. The Initiative will continue to enhance current and future state work to create an equitable Colorado, and this report outlines priority projects, including building strong workforce systems, and steps in the new year,” Governor Polis wrote in the opening letter.
“New Americans contribute to our shared prosperity, and by supporting integration efforts, all of Colorado benefits,” said Joe Barela, Executive Director of CDLE. “In fact, we already do: as the New Americans annual report notes, immigrants contribute billions of dollars in taxes every year, and tens of thousands of immigrant entrepreneurs provide more than 100,000 Coloradans with jobs. We encourage anyone invested in the future of their communities to read the report.”
Over the course of 2020, as COVID-19 ravaged Colorado’s communities, the need for the initiative’s work became even clearer than in pre-pandemic times. Since the beginning of the pandemic, New Americans have been disproportionately represented in essential industries such as healthcare, construction, and agriculture, and our collective welfare has heavily depended on their tireless work to care for the sick and keep food on our tables.
Despite their contributions, Colorado’s many New Americans struggle, like their U.S. born counterparts, to find affordable housing, transportation, childcare, meaningful employment, economic security, education, and other opportunities. Their struggles are often compounded by a lack of English proficiency, unrecognized credentials and/or degrees, a lack of familiarity with our complex healthcare system, and the stress that comes with having to support their families here and abroad.
The initiative’s senior advisor, Kit Taintor, notes, “Integration is not only about the newcomer; it is also about the community as a whole changing in ways that benefit all. Creating opportunities for New Americans is not just about the individual; it’s about building back a stronger Colorado for each and every one of us.”
About the New American Integration Initiative
In November 2019, building upon an existing state workgroup, Governor Polis announced the addition of a position of New American advisor, co-housed at CDLE and the Governor’s Office. The New Americans Initiative will identify and address issues related to integration, foster enhanced inclusion of New Americans in Colorado’s civic, social, and economic life, and ensure equitable opportunities for newcomers. Kit Taintor, the New American advisor, oversees cross-agency strategies to facilitate the integration of immigrants and refugees into the economic, civic and social life of our state. Previously, Kit served as Colorado’s State Refugee Coordinator, the President of the State Coordinators for Refugee Resettlement affinity network, and the Executive Director of the Colorado African Organization.