Our Mission is to provide leadership development opportunities, advocacy, and key services for the integration of immigrant communities in western Colorado
The Hispanic Affairs Project (HAP) was created in 2005 by Hispanic immigrant leaders from the communities of Grand Junction, Delta, Olathe, Montrose and Hotchkiss. These first-generation leaders participated in faith formation programs within the Catholic Church, and realized the need to reach a rapidly changing population. Addressing the needs of the new Hispanic immigrant community in the Western Slope led to action, organization, and the formation of HAP.
Nationally, the immigrant rights movement ignited around comprehensive immigration reform and HAP members worked tirelessly for federal legislation to address the broken immigration system. Improving the challenges faced by immigrant families, such as lack of integration, social inequalities, and limited opportunities for economic development, remains the focus of our work. At the local, state and federal level, we advocate for pro-immigrant policy changes that protect and defend immigrants. We are grateful to fill a unique niche in the region, and are proud of our achievements made for and by the Hispanic community:
*Federal victory to increase the salary for H-2A foreign workers in the US Sheep industry and defeating the DOL and DHS in a final US District of Columbia Court of Appeals decision, to bring better immigration provision to sheepherders workers to overcome discriminatory labor abuses.
*Providing immigration legal assistance to nearly 1000 families to help them overcome the challenges that come with a lack of immigration status.
*Participated in the foundation of Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), and collaborated as key organization members since 2006 in annual legislative campaigns advocating for more inclusive laws to protect communities of color and low income families in Colorado.
*Organized the Western Colorado Justice for Immigrants Committees (WCJFIC), with more than 180 leaders of 13 communities across the region, providing training, resources and advocacy capacity for the wellbeing of the society.
*Partnering in voter registration and mobilizing Hispanic voters during the local, state and federal elections as part of our regular civic engagement activities.
*Participated in state and federal networks as the New American Campaign (NAC), Mexican Screening Project, Health Equity response team (HEART state of Colorado), Colorado Human Trafficking Council, among others.
*Providing resources to more than 1,500 families on an annual basis. HAP facilitates over 25 educational workshops, including leadership training for community members, but also, participating in coalitions and collaborations with other agencies in the region.
*Joining the state I-Drive Colorado campaign to fix and expand the SB-251 state driver's license program for undocumented residents. As an authorized community partner, we help individuals prepare for their driver's license appointment. We aim to keep people and the roads that we all use safe.
*Playing a key role in Welcoming Colorado Initiative and Welcoming America, to educate community members, governmental entities, and elected officials on introducing better practices and policies to create safe and inclusive communities in Western CO.
*Active involvement and participation in the Health Equity Advocacy Team to strengthen community knowledge and awareness about issues of discrimination, bias and inequality impacting our communities.
*Joining forces with the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault to provide sexual assault and domestic violence prevention education and outreach in rural communities in the Western Slope.
*Organizing, in partnership with local Police Departments, annual Latino Police Academies. Improved understanding of legal protections and heightened trust between immigrant and police communities is key to cooperation!
A year of great victories:
1. My name is Manuel, and I am a sheepherder:
"My name is Manuel Laza and I am calling from Craig. My coworkers and I have heard the news that the salary of the sheep herders has increased this month (November 2015) and I am calling to thank you for doing that favor for us. I have been working for 9 years with that salary and I never thought I would get an increase. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for helping us."-phone call from a worker to the HAP team.
On that same ranch there is a 67 year old who has worked there for 34 years with the H2A visa. Because of his age, he has decided to return to Peru. Although he has worked for so many years in this country, the lack of an adequate salary and lack of benefits, he returns to his country to live in poverty.
After receiving pressure from HAP in a federal court, the Department of Labor (DOL) hastened to increase the salary of the H2A workers in the sheep herding industry.
As of November 16, 2015, more than 1,600 workers in Colorado and other states, achieved an increase in salary after 50 years of receiving an income of $750 a month. This increase, although it does not reach the Federal salary requirements for all foreign workers in any industry in the United States, adds about $8,755,200 to the overall annual pay.
The DOL has the responsibility to periodically review the salaries in all industries, however, because of a lack of public participation and opinion, and that of the workers themselves, the DOL continued with the same regulations over the last 50 years.
2. My name is Lizbeth and my mother is Seferina Luna, leader of the Grand Junction HAP Committee.
Lizbeth is the first in her immigrant family to attain a university degree and this is her story:
"I am graduating with a BS in Public Accounting with a GPA of 3.78 and a Master in Business Administration with a GPA of 4.0, magna cum laude. I saw the MBA as an opportunity to give me an edge in the competitive market so I would stand out. My family is my motivation. My father works in construction, my mother in the orchards; I know that my family has always wanted me to become educated.
What was your biggest challenge?
I had to work and go to school full time. For the first three years of my college career, I was a manager at McDonald's and worked 40+ hours per week. I knew I wanted to go to college, and that I needed to finance it myself. I did get some scholarships, but I paid the rest of my schooling out of pocket. I had some help from my parents. I started working at McDonald's when I was 16, and became a manager by 18. It was very eye opening working at McDonalds. It really humbled me. Everyone was so involved with me going to school and they encouraged me.
I am the first person on my dad's side to graduate from college. I can see their excitement. They mean the world to me. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be where I am. My parents and my sisters have always encouraged me. They have always been there for me.
This past April 15, our Immigration Legal Assistance Program (BI) celebrated its secodn anniversary in service. Being the only organization in the region authorized by the Justice Department to provide legal assistance in immigration this has been a very busy year but a very satisfying one in helping to keep immigrant families together.
To date, HAP has a 100% approval rating for cases submitted to USCIS, and the majority of HAP's practice is dedicated to DACA, residency adjustment and Naturalization applications. DACA applicants, often known as "Dreamers," have been able to go to college, get more stable jobs, pursue out of state opportunities, get driver's licenses and help their families attain financial stability.