Plans for immigrant integration have been dogged by criticism from the town’s conservative residents. But the group continues moving forward with plans to have a full-time coordinator in place by the end of March.The immigrant integration effort in Greeley, though hindered by early opposition, is close to finalizing its board membership and naming a full-time coordinator.
Realizing Our Community, the name given to the Greeley-Evans integration project, has had trouble gaining traction among the town’s more conservative residents who suspect the group of advocating for illegal immigrants.
But Christine Marston, professor at the University of Northern Colorado and chairwoman of the ROC board, says some of the skepticism has dissipated after months of reaching out to conservatives and assuring them the project is aimed at legal immigrants only.
“We are continually having dialogues with people who represent a more conservative view,” Marston said. “I keep trying to focus on our positive message that we are trying to make Greeley a better place to live, work and play.”
Marston says so far there are 10 board members with another three possibly set to join. Applications for the coordinator position are being reviewed.
The ROC committee has identified six areas of focus for the integration project, including civic participation, culturally sensitive health care, education, community relations and English-language learning
The integration efforts in Greeley, Boulder and more than a dozen other communities throughout the state are funded by the Supporting Immigrant and Refugee Families Initiative of the Colorado Trust, a private foundation. Local coalitions receive $300,000 over four years to use as they see fit to achieve the goal of more cohesive, compassionate communities. The terms of the grant expressly prohibit funds to be used in service of illegal immigrants.
“We think of it as immigrant integration, but the grant recipients think of it more as community integration,” said Susan Downs-Karkos of the Colorado Trust. “It’s about bringing together all people in a community and making sure that all people no matter their race or socioeconomic status have the opportunity to realize their potential.”