Dear Friend of HAP,
Spring has certainly sprung in Western Colorado and we are hopeful about the visible progress being made towards greater inclusion for our community. Here at the Hispanic Affairs Project, we have had a busy last few months engaging with community members and advocating for equitable policy change. HAP supported several bills during this year’s state legislative session and we are thrilled to share that all of these bills passed!
Meanwhile, with many COVID restrictions lifted, we have been able to return to our usual activities including community organizing in mobile home parks, reaching out to lawful permanent residents eligible for citizenship, and representing the Western Slope in key collaboratives including the state Office of New Americans to advance inclusion and equity for our communities.
We invite you to read through the entirety of this newsletter to learn more about our work and impact this year.
PHOTO: State Rep. Andrew Boesenecker speaks about HB22-1287 during the 2022 legislative session Photo credit: Rights for Residents Campaign
At the State Capital
With the end of the 2022 state legislative session, we are pleased to share updates on the bills that the Hispanic Affairs Project advocated for this year that will increase equitable access to important protections, resources, and opportunities for our community.
HAP played an active role in the steering committee drafting and advocating for HB1356 Small Community-based Nonprofit Grant Program which will provide $35 million in grants to small community-based nonprofit organizations that have been impacted or disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency for infrastructure and capacity building. The bill passed and it is headed to the Governor’s desk to be signed. Learn more in this op-ed by Ricardo Perez, HAP’s executive director, and Alex Sanchez, president and CEO of Voces Unidas de las Montañas and Voces Unidas Action Fund.
As part of our work to advocate for housing security and tenant rights, HAP actively advocated for two bills focused on preserving mobile home park communities. Imagine owning your home, but the land underneath it is owned by a private corporation that can raise the lot rent and add fees without offering more amenities or better infrastructure. For approximately 100,000 people who live in mobile homes in Colorado, this is their situation.
HB22-1287 Protections For Mobile Home Park Residents will increase stability by building on the “opportunity to purchase” law passed in Colorado in 2020 to give residents better tools to manage their own communities and strengthen accountability by improving the state’s oversight program and the MHPA to keep park landlords accountable. This bill passed and is headed to the Governor’s desk for a signature.HB22-1287 Protections For Mobile Home Park Residents will increase stability by building on the “opportunity to purchase” law passed in Colorado in 2020 to give residents better tools to manage their own communities and strengthen accountability by improving the state’s oversight program and the MHPA to keep park landlords accountable. This bill passed and is headed to the Governor’s desk for a signature.
SB22-160 Loan Program Resident-owned Communities would establish a revolving loan and grant program to provide assistance and financing to mobile home owners seeking to organize and purchase their mobile home parks. This bill passed and is headed to the Governor’s desk for a signature.
One of the policy priorities of our community and members of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is HB22-1289 Health Benefits For Colorado Children And Pregnant Persons which will expand Medicaid and CHP+ access to individuals 18 and under and pregnant people who would otherwise qualify for coverage if it weren’t for their immigration status. This is an important step toward increasing health coverage for the most vulnerable in our state. This bill passed and is headed to the Governor’s desk for a signature.
PHOTO: Mobile home park in Montrose, CO
Protecting Mobile Home Park Residents
The affordable housing crisis impacting Western Colorado has become a significant threat to low-income families, many of who live in mobile home parks. With the sale of many mobile home communities comes development and displacement, or significant lot rent increases which often result in residents becoming homeless overnight. In response to this crisis, HAP is working in Gunnison and Montrose to help families protect themselves under new state laws and explore models for resident-owned communities.
Since last June, HAP has been supporting Organización Nueva Esperanza —Organization of New Hope (ONE), a mobile home park neighborhood association in Gunnison County that was formed to preserve the Country Meadows mobile home park. We recently heard from residents that the mobile home park has been sold to an out-of-state entity and that lot rent will increase substantially. Moving forward we will be working alongside residents to fight back against harmful lot rent increases.
In Montrose, HAP has resumed house meetings with residents of mobile home parks to discuss recently passed state laws that protect residents, review requirements for rental contracts, ensure that residents have valid contracts, and to better understand their interests. Our goal is to provide support for residents and help preserve their homes, especially with the growing threats of development and gentrification.
GRAPHIC: Locations of DMV offices that provide CO-RCSA driver’s licenses and IDs
State Driver’s License Expansion
As part of the I Drive Colorado Campaign, HAP has helped bring the voice of rural western Colorado to the state capital and the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to help pass and expand the Colorado Road and Community Safety Act (CO-RCSA). This essential program allows undocumented Colorado residents access to a state driver’s license or identification.
Since 2013, the campaign has been working to expand access to CO-RCSA driver’s licenses across the state, and recently eight new DMV offices started providing these licenses for a total of 19 locations across the state. This important expansion allows the DMV to better serve the immigrant community and helps to keep Colorado roads safer for everyone. Since the start of 2020, HAP has been a community partner with the Montrose DMV, helping nearly 300 individuals to prepare for and access an appointment for a driver’s license or ID.
PHOTO: CUNY Citizenship Now! workshop at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City, 2022
Earlier this month, HAP’s accredited legal representative, Marketa Zubkova, participated in the national conference of the New Americans Campaign in Jersey City, NJ gathering together with dozens of representatives from community-based organizations from across the country to strengthen naturalization strategies and share best practices. From learning about Jersey City’s recent recognition and accreditation from the U.S. Department of Justice to become the first city in the U.S. authorized to provide immigration legal assistance to city residents—to assisting with the CUNY Citizenship Now! workshop for 204 New Americans in New York City—the conference offered immense learning and networking opportunities!
This gathering was timely as we have seen a decrease in the number of lawful permanent residents applying for U.S. citizenship through naturalization here in Colorado. We don’t understand why fewer people are taking the next step in becoming U.S. citizens, but this has only encouraged us to increase our outreach and education about the naturalization process and the many benefits of U.S. citizenship! Over the months to come, HAP will be launching a strategic communications campaign including radio and social media ads and community outreach and education about the naturalization process. If you or someone you know is eligible for naturalization, please encourage them to learn more and let them know that HAP can help with the process!
Advances in the Office of New Americans
Since its foundation in 2021, Colorado’s new Office of New Americans (ONA) has counted on the support of HAP and other refugee and immigrant leaders from across the state to support the establishment of this office and the development of its draft integration framework. This year HAP’s executive director, Ricardo Perez, was appointed to serve on the Community Advisory Committee (CAC), to facilitate the engagement between New Americans, newly arrived immigrants, asylees, and refugees with state government leaders and agencies.
The overarching goal of ONA’s statewide integration framework is to foster a thriving state where public and private sectors invest in the economic, social, linguistic, and cultural integration of New Americans. The plan’s key strategies for change are to:
- Increase access for New Americans to economic opportunities that help all Coloradans prosper.
- Increase access for New Americans to social opportunities that help all Coloradans participate in cohesive and mutually vibrant communities.
- Increase access for New Americans to linguistic opportunities that help all Coloradans communicate with each other.
- Increase access for New Americans to cultural opportunities that help all Coloradans share their experiences and perspectives.
We feel that this framework and investment by state and municipal government is crucial to advancing immigrant integration and inclusion, and we will be working with our local communities to move these strategies forward. As we think about the refugee crisis around the world, there is an opportunity to strengthen the integration infrastructure even further so that communities across the state, including here in Western Colorado, can better support the resettlement of 2,000 Afghan evacuees, the pending arrival of Ukrainian refugees, and the ongoing arrival of Central American and other asylum seekers. Learn more about ONA’s draft integration framework here.
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