Polis COVID-19 update

Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 21-1150 on June 25, creating an Office of New Americans in Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment, expanding the New American Integration Initiative which launched in November of 2019.  

“Colorado’s immigrants help drive our economy with over $15 billion in consumer spending power and contributions of over $5 billion in taxes to our state. We recognize the countless immigrants and refugees who have contributed to Colorado’s economic, cultural, and civic life,” Polis said in a DOL-issued news release. “This Office will continue the good work of the New American Integration Initiative, and help immigrants assimilate and become an even stronger force for good in Colorado.”

Immigration advocates, according to the release, say that "the more than half a million immigrants living in the state need unique support as they build their lives in Colorado. Per the bill, the office will be responsible for Colorado’s first statewide integration plan; a home for immigrant-focused initiatives; a resource for state government leaders and community members alike; and serve as a thought partner for elected leaders and their staff." 

The agency's executive director Joe Barela said in the release, “We’re very pleased to house the Office of New Americans in CDLE. We are thrilled that, as a result of our partnership with the Governor’s Office, the legislature codified our past and current joint efforts. The signing comes at an especially poignant time as we recently celebrated World Refugee Day and as Immigrant Heritage Month comes to a close.”

In addition to supporting existing organizations that serve immigrants, the office will also create an expanded space in which dialogue between community members and state government can work together more closely to help New Americans integrate into their new communities.

“No one succeeds alone,” Kit Taintor, director of the Office of New Americans, said in the release. “We know that by breaking silos, prioritizing community member input, and sharing learnings with one another, we can better support Colorado’s refugees and immigrants, to the benefit of all.”

Reps. Iman Jodeh, the daughter of Palestinian refugees, and Senator Julie Gonzales, a leader on immigrant rights, sponsored the legislation.