Our Mission is to provide leadership development, advocacy, and key services for immigrant integration in western Colorado
The Hispanic Affairs Project (HAP) was created in 2005 by Hispanic immigrant leaders of the communities in Grand Junction, Delta, Olathe, Montrose and Hotchkiss who had participated in adult faith formation programs within the Catholic Church. In light of the changing population dynamics, these leaders recognized the importance of addressing the needs of the new Hispanic immigrant community in the region. First generation immigrant leaders from these communities organized themselves to expand their work to include all people affected by the challenges facing immigrant families, especially the lack of integration, social inequalities and few opportunities for social development. Over the last four years, HAP has developed a more stable infrastructure after receiving the 501c3 nonprofit status in March of 2010, elaborating its five-year strategic plan, and expanding its capacity for new financial development.
The organization is guided by the Board of Directors, a Leadership Advisory Board and a Regional Leadership Committee which represents Mesa, Delta, Montrose, Gunnison, Ouray and San Miguel Counties. The Leadership Team consists of 40 members who participate in work areas including: Fundraising, Immigrant Rights, Migrant Farmworker Support and Leadership Formation. Since 2006, HAP has staffed and coordinated the Hispanic Committees (formerly the WCJFI Committees) as its primary base building and organizing vehicle in the region. HAP has represented the immigrant community in its efforts to achieve pro-immigrant policies and federal reform by developing relationships with elected officials and bringing the voices and stories of immigrants into the public eye through the media on the Western Slope
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.