Since it was founded in 2009, the Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative has expanded its coverage across the metropolitan area, according to the chair of the busy nonprofit. It has offered assistance to immigrants from around the world as they are integrated into our communities via self-development grants.
Grant money has gone for English language classes, tools for work, professional certification, obtaining a “green card” and naturalization and citizenship requirements.
At an April 21 donor appreciation luncheon, a new banner was unfurled. The organization will continue its program of “one immigrant at a time,” assisting people from across the world, under a new name: “Immigrant Pathways Colorado.” The change reflects outreach across the metro area.
The initiative has assisted 36 individuals with citizenship applications, which can cost from $800 to $1,000 — a large amount to limited-income families. They have come from Bolivia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela.
Currently, they receive about 19 requests a year, some through Littleton's Immigrant Resources Center at Bemis Library, where the busy agency helps with English, connection to community services and application for U.S. citizenship.
A recent example that chair Susan Thornton cites with pride is the need of a young woman from Ethiopia who had passed her examinations to become a physician, but couldn't afford to travel to interviews for a residency. She is happily situated in a program in Chicago, thanks to a grant.
Another success story is about a man who needed tools to work. It cost $300 a month to rent tools. Thornton visited the Breakfast Optimists with this need and the man, a translator who had to leave Iraq for personal safety, was able to work. He was here after a call from Joe Rice of Littleton, who was serving in Iraq, Thornton recalls. “He'll arrive at the airport Friday — can you get him an apartment, find him a job and tools?”
Immigrant Pathways Colorado is completely community-supported. Fundraising events will include an annual campaign, a fall Taco Bar at Platte River Bar and Grill, with silent auction (they are looking for items) and an end of the year “ask” letter.
The April 21 luncheon speaker was journalist Helen Thorpe, who is author of “Just Like Us,” a story of four immigrant girls (two were documented citizens and two were not). Thorpe followed them for six years — out of high school and into college — including to parties, Mexican dance halls … “it was eye-opening to spend time in the Spanish-speaking Latino community.” She hung out with the girls as they dressed for a prom. The father of one was determined to go with her. The girls dealt with two cultural traditions.
Thorpe hopes to help more Americans realize how hard it is to become a citizen. Those here illegally have to return to their country and apply from there — which can take years. “I want people to understand about the undocumented life,” Thorpe repeated, saying she was still closely in touch with three of the girls.
Information about Immigrant Pathways Colorado is available on its website: connectingimmigrants.org.