DENVER – Hundreds of people projected to come to Colorado this year will be affected by President Trump’s executive order barring refugees and people with visas from certain predominantly-Muslim countries.
Homeland Security staffers and legal advisors both have said they weren’t briefed on the administration’s plan until it was rolled out Friday, resulting in confusion across the country as dozens of people were detained for hours while lawyers, immigration officials and judges sorted out what the order meant.
Data from the state of Colorado show the number of refugees who settled in Colorado – either as their first destination or via another country or state – each fiscal year since 1980.
Among the seven countries affected by Trump’s order, Colorado has seen the most refugees from Somalia over that time period (4,367). The second-highest total of refugees hail from Iraq (3,507), followed by Sudan (1,198), Iran (743), Syria (145), Libya (30) and Yemen (1).
Those seven countries account for 17.3 percent of total refugee migration to the state since 1980, according to the statistics.
But its highest totals of refugees over the past 36 years who ended up in Colorado have come from Vietnam (10,788), the Soviet Union and Russia (6,075) and Burma (5,114) – none of which are affected by President Trump’s order.
The data show an uptick in refugees to Colorado from some of the nations banned by Trump’s order; the number of refugees coming to Colorado from Iraq and Somalia are among the highest they’ve ever been, but refugee numbers coming from Iran and Sudan peaked in prior decades.
2016 REFUGEE DATA FOR COLORADO
In fiscal year 2016, Colorado saw its highest number of refugees, asylum seekers and special immigrant visa holders come from Burma. Of the seven affected countries, 12 percent came from Iraq; 10 percent came from Somalia and 5 percent came from Syria.
Seventy-four percent of those who came to Colorado were refugees, according to the state, and 12 percent were special immigrant visa holders.
Those with special immigrant visas have received extra attention after the ban, since they are all Iraqis or Afghanis who worked as interpreters or fixers for U.S. Armed Services operating in those countries. Those with special immigrant visas receive special benefits and are treated similarly to refugees for up to eight months after their arrival in the U.S.
The data show more refugees ended up in Arapahoe County (843) than any other Colorado county. Adams (536), Denver (450), Weld (360) and El Paso (313) accepted the next-highest numbers.
The report also shows that 89 percent of refugees who ended up in Colorado in the last fiscal year were under age 44, and that 53 percent were under age 24. Thirty-seven percent were under age 18.
Fifty-two percent of those noted in the report were two-parent families with children. Only 31 percent were single with no children under age 18.
The report also states that 92 percent of people found employment within 90 days, and that the refugee and immigrant groups were getting paid an average hourly wage of $11.44.
In those three months, 562 refugees came to Colorado straight from their country of origin and 57 came to Colorado as a secondary arrival.
Eighty-one percent admitted in that period were refugees and 12 percent were people with special immigrant visas.
Somalians accounted for 20 percent of those admitted; Iraqis accounted for 12 percent and Syrians accounted for 7 percent.
Those trends indicate at least one-third of the likely refugees for the fiscal year would have come from countries affected by the president’s order.
U.S. CITIZEN WHO IMMIGRATED TO DENVER FROM SOMALIA: ‘I’M VERY SAD’
Mohamed Nur immigrated to Denver more than 20 years ago, escaping civil war in Somlia.
“I cherish it; I like it. I’m willing to give my life to America because this is my country,” he told Denver7 Monday.
But Nur says he’s disappointed by the president’s order.
“I’m very sad. My president let me down,” he said.
He told Denver7 that he fears the orders by the Trump administration will energize terrorists abroad and make Somali-Americans vulnerable to harassment at home.
He says he wants to live in a society that lives together.
“Love each other as America. One society in America – that’s what I like,” he said.
Nur volunteers at a Denver Somali center and says he hopes lawmakers in Washington will give the order a second look, which some have already promised to do.
NATIONAL POLITICIANS, ORGANIZATIONS SOUND OFF
Lawyers in Washington and across the country have taken up cases for refugees and green card holders who were detained at airports across the country, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations and American Civil Liberties Union have both been working on challenging the order in court.
CAIR officially filed a lawsuit challenging Trump’s order Monday.
“Refugees are welcome, and we have a longstanding history as a country in being a safe-haven for people escaping terror. It should continue to be our policy,” ACLU-Colorado Communications Director John Krieger told Denver7 Monday.
He said that there will likely be “significant pressure” on local law enforcement agencies to follow the rules of the new order to help immigration agents identify and deport people living in the U.S. illegally, which many of Colorado’s agencies have voiced opposition to.
We have to be even more focused on immigration and the relationship between local immigration authorities and federal agencies. ICE all of a sudden has one-third more the agents than it did before,” Krieger said. “We know that there’s going to be significant pressure on local law enforcement agencies to allow themselves to be co-opted.”
And Colorado’s elected representatives and members of Congress have been vocal on the order; Democrats have all opposed it and even some high-profile Republicans have said they had various concerns about the order.
“If the ban were announced with one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week,” Trump tweeted. “A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there.”
Former President Barack Obama broke his post-presidency silence Monday as well, saying in a statement through his spokesperson that he “fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion” and that he was “heartened” by the number of people who had taken to the streets to protest the ban. He did not mention Trump or the order directly.
Denver7's Marc Stewart and Mark Belcher contributed to this report.