GREELEY, Colo. — Colorado knows how to welcome newcomers to America. For decades, this state has been a beacon for refugees.
Now that experience is paying off as a small number of the migrants who came to Denver from the southern border go to a smaller city.
In Greeley, the Immigrant and Refugee Center of Northern Colorado (IRCNOCO) wants to make sure everyone feels welcome.
"Pretty much from all over the world we have clients in little ol’ Greeley, Colorado," said Tony Archer, with IRCNOCO. "It’s home for us and it should be home for our clients as well."
The center gives services to people who are new to the U.S. to figure out their new home -- everything from English lessons to citizenship classes and job services. They’re not only seeing an increase in migrants from South America, they’re seeing an increase in immigrants and refugees from everywhere.
"It is a safe place for families to come," said Araceli Calderon, director of IRCNOCO. "They wonder, what are the services available? For us, it’s so important to connect with them to make them feel safe."
While Weld County hasn’t seen the same number of migrants Denver has in the past months, many that come through Colorado have chosen to stay in Greeley. The number of people enrolled in classes at the center has nearly doubled to 800 in the past months. They are people from all over the world.
"We’ve recently had to hire several new staff that speak different languages just to handle the client load of the different clients that are coming in," said Archer. "Obviously the Denver area has seen a larger increase than we have, but there definitely has been an increase. It’s impacted our need for more programming and more classes, so we’ve had to hire more teachers."
People end up in places like Greeley for a number of reasons, but it’s mostly organic and through word of mouth. They say there’s a strong immigrant community that’s formed where people who know others coming to Colorado will tell them to come settle together. There’s also a lot of work for people who don’t speak English.
When they arrive in Greeley, they join people like Shukur Manaf, who came to the U.S. from Myanmar.
"I speak about seven languages," said Manaf. "I actually took English classes here for about three to six months prior to starting work."
Manaf now works at the center, helping people who’ve recently arrived.
"When they move to a different country, you don’t know the language, you don’t know the culture. There’s so many different aspects to it," said Manaf.
For those who choose to stay in Colorado, there’s help to make it feel like home.
"I want to make sure that everybody finds out that they can have resources and friends in this community," said Calderon.
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