Latina Republic is launching a state by state look at Immigration across the United States. The profiles highlight a brief overview of aspects of each state and their impact on immigrant livelihood as well as immigrant contributions to that state. Through state by state highlights, we hope to shed light on the unique circumstances, demographics, culture, laws and local socio-political climate of relevance to immigrant communities across the United States.
States play a role in immigration policy as state leaders have an opportunity to design humane immigration policies and conditions that improve immigrant livelihood from the local to the national.
The state of Colorado is home to a population of nearly 6 million inhabitants, reaching a total of 5.7 million. Out of this number, around 10 percent of the population are immigrants. In 2018, it was recorded that there were 549,181 immigrants, making 1 out of every 10 individuals in Colorado an immigrant, according to data from the American Immigration Council.
Immigrants in Colorado
The immigrant community is mainly from Latin America, numbering at 54 percent, with 40 percent of those hailing from Mexico, according to the American Immigration Council; 23 percent from Asia, including immigrants from India at 5 percent, and both China and Vietnam at 3 percent. European immigrants number in at 13 percent and immigrants from African countries total 6 percent.
Colorado is a state that attracts immigrants, especially Latin American immigrants, due to its southern and western areas being a part of Mexican territory until 1848 due to the Mexican Cession. In recent years, Colorado has experienced more Latin American immigrants, with many being undocumented.
Immigrant in Colorado, Statistics
Nearly 142,000 U.S. citizens in Colorado live with at least one family member who is undocumented, according to data from the American Immigration Council.
- 190,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 34 percent of the immigrant population and 3 percent of the total state population in 2016.
- 276,589 people in Colorado, including 141,705 U.S. citizens, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
- During the same period, about 1 in 11 children in the state was a U.S. citizen living with at least one undocumented family member (110,634 children in total).
Colorado DACA Recipients
Colorado is home to thousands of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.
- 14,520 active DACA recipients lived in Colorado as of March 2020, while DACA has been granted to 18,555 people in total since 2012.
- As of 2019, 64 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Colorado had applied for DACA.
- An additional 6,000 residents of the state would satisfy all but the educational requirements for DACA, and fewer than a thousand would become eligible as they grew older.
Access to Health Coverage
In Colorado, one of the difficulties immigrants have encountered is that many are without health coverage. It is estimated that from the state’s uninsured population, 27 percent of them were undocumented. Many individuals are simply eligible but not enrolled in health coverage programs, which is roughly 57 percent of the population. Out of this number, 25 percent are Hispanic.
According to the Center for Health Progress, some of the reasons why these numbers are so high can be attributed to language barriers surrounding the enrollment process, as well as fear and confusion surrounding how their status will be viewed.
Colorado’s Immigrant Rights Legislation
In the past few months, Colorado has passed a series of laws aimed at supporting and protecting undocumented residents after the pandemic revealed wide disparities in Colorado. Gov. Jared Polis has signed into law measures aimed at expanding access to housing, jobs and state benefits for all.
“We can’t just sit around waiting for the federal government to fix our broken immigration system,” Polis said at a signing ceremony for a law eliminating the requirement that regulatory agencies verify a person’s immigration status before issuing or renewing a license, certificate or registration.
“Colorado needs the contributions from everybody in our state with all different talents and skills to have good jobs and work and employ their abilities to make us all better off,” stated Polis.
HB-1194-Statewide Immigration Legal Defense Fund
HB-1194, the bill to create a Statewide Immigration Legal Defense Fund, has passed! It is now waiting to be signed into law by the governor. In the coming years, this fund is expected to become large enough to provide a lawyer to anyone in the state facing deportation proceedings and unable to afford one of their own.
The bill was promoted by the Campaign for Universal Representation which aims to create a Statewide Legal Defense Fund that will help keep Colorado families together by providing a lawyer for people facing detention or deportation who couldn’t otherwise afford one.
“Immigration detention is the only legal procedure in the nation where someone can be detained without the right to a government-funded lawyer. As a result, many people in deportation proceedings have valid legal claims to remain in the United States, but are deported anyway because they lack the legal expertise to effectively argue their cases. Legal defense is also critical to addressing Anti-Black racism in immigration courts and the detention to deportation pipeline, since Black immigrants are over four times as likely as non-Black immigrants to face detention or deportation on criminal grounds,” CIRC, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.
SB-251-The Colorado Road and Community Safety Act
The Colorado Road and Community Safety Act (CO-RCSA), also known as SB-251, provides drivers licenses to all Colorado residents, regardless of immigration status. The 11 DMV offices running the SB-251 program provided documents to almost 150,000 Coloradans as of 2020. Up until 1998, all immigrants had access to a driver’s license in Colorado, irrespective of their immigration status.
When law and policy changed to block undocumented Coloradans from accessing a license, many had to drive without one. This led to tickets, vehicle impoundment, arrests, and thousands of deportations. Then, in 2001, a group of undocumented immigrants organized to fight for driver’s licenses for their community. In 2013, they finally succeeded, and SB-251 passed into law! Since then, CIRC has worked to pass five more bills making the program more effective and accessible to all, explains CIRC.
Colorado Immigrant Rights Leaders announced a fasting campaign for immigration reform this month. Activists and faith leaders from organizations including Together Colorado, Colorado People’s Alliance, American Friends Service Committee and Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition issued a public declaration of their intention to fast for various periods of time from June 9 to July 4.
Colorado Office of New Americans
The legislature also passed a measure to create the Office of New Americans, which will serve as a focus of policy ideas and refugee and immigrant programs if the bill is signed into law. The legislation was sponsored by first-term state Rep. Iman Jodeh, the first Arab Muslim woman of color elected in the state’s history.
Colorado Landmark Housing Benefit
Colorado has also passed a significant measure, the landmark housing benefit last March that allows undocumented residents to apply for and receive housing assistance, vouchers and other subsidies.
Colorado’s law helps people who couldn’t apply for housing assistance programs because they couldn’t prove their lawful presence, said Democratic state Sen. Julie Gonzales, who sponsored the bill.
“We’re making it easier for folks who have become members of our community and who often give back to reach out for help,” Gonzales said. “We need to respond to the needs of Coloradans, and that’s what we’re doing by passing this bill into law.”
Immigrant Arts Projects-Colorado
Familias Separadas Public Art Project and Unveiling. This National Public Art Project highlights undocumented immigrant families affected by detention and deportation.
Denver is one of the three national unveilings of the series of public artworks presented by the Familias Separadas project. Each artwork, measuring 20’ high, will be installed on the exterior walls of the RedLine Contemporary Art Center. The large scale portraits, designed by award-winning visual artist Michelle Angela Ortiz, highlight the stories of three undocumented community members that reside in or near Denver.
Each public artwork contains a QR code for viewers to read and hear the stories told first hand by the community participants and learn ways to take action. The stories, photographs, and writings can be found here.
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The visual art sessions focus on healing from past trauma caused by our broken immigration system.
Immigrant Film Artivist
Originally from Puebla, Mexico, Laura has been calling Denver home since age 13. With an Associates of Applied Science Degree in Writing/Directing for Film & Television from the Colorado Film School, her documentary film debut: “No One Shall Be Called Illegal” showcased at the 2011 Denver International Starz Film Festival.
In 2017, Laura was a producer for the documentary film: “Five Dreamers,” which aired on Rocky Mountain PBS and National PBS. Laura has been an active community member with Together Colorado since 2016 and in the year 2018 became the Project & Engagement Manager for Motus Theater’s UndocuAmerica Project, where she continues to work as an UndocuMonologues performer. Laura is now working for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition as Hotline Manager for the ICE incident report hotline.
Latino Cultural Arts Center-Denver, Colorado
The art center’s history begins in the North Side of Denver with the family of a Mexican immigrant and an Irish American who founded an industrial food processing company in Denver in 1972. They became the largest patrons of Latino arts in the region by supporting their artist friends across the city and the Americas. The center is home to the Abarca Family Collection.
Higher Ed Access & Undocumented Students in Colorado
The University of Denver practices education without discrimination and strives to foster a diverse and welcoming campus community for all students, regardless of background, race or immigration status. As part of that commitment, they welcome and encourage applications from students with an undocumented immigration status.
“If you’re an undocumented or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) student, we invite you to apply using our international student admission process,” states the university.
Financial Aid for Undocumented Students
Undocumented college students are considered for up to $30,000 per year in merit-based scholarships, on an individual basis based on academic record. Merit scholarships can include a $3000 stipend for Residence Hall Grants. They reward exceptional talent in the arts and in athletics through specialized scholarships. While undocumented college students are not eligible to receive federal financial aid, there are two types of aid available from the State of Colorado, the Colorado Student Grant and the Colorado Work-Study.
Resettled in Colorado
To learn more about refugees in Colorado, visit, Resettled, a set of interviews of the impact of refugees in rural communities in Colorado.
To browse a Latinx press serving its community in Colorado visit, El Semanario.
Stay in touch with Latinx art scene in Denver, sign up for the LCAC newsletter.
Nohely Diaz is a graduate from California State University, Sacramento. During her education there, she majored in Government with a concentration in International Relations and doubled minored in Criminal Justice and Peace and Conflict Resolution. She is committed to bringing awareness to topics relating to human security and human rights. Her dedication to public service has allowed her to engage in several advocacy campaigns regarding human trafficking, labor exploitation, and Indigenous rights. In addition, she has served her community through census work. Nohely is now looking to continue pursuing justice and equity for others by starting Graduate school.