🎉🎉 WE DID IT! Our Immigration Bills are Now Law in CO! // ¡LO HICIMOS! ¡Nuestros proyectos de ley ahora son ley en CO! 🎉🎉

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Governor Polis Signs 4 Pro-Immigrant Bills into Law in a Watershed Year for Immigration Justice

Critical new laws include SB-131, which protects data immigrants entrust to state and local agencies from being unjustly exposed to ICE; and HB-1194, which creates a statewide legal defense fund for immigrants in deportation proceedings.

We are incredibly excited to announce that CIRC’s legislative campaign bills were signed by Governor Polis on Friday and are now law in Colorado! CIRC’s bills were among 11 pro-immigrant bills that have been signed into law this legislative session, making this one of the most historic years for immigrant rights in our state’s history.

Governor Polis signed 4 bills protecting immigrant rights in Colorado, on issues ranging from safe contraceptive access to increased protections for farmworkers. Lisa Duran, Executive Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, says that after years of increasingly vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy on a national level, these state victories feel like a welcome change in political tides from the ground up. “First and foremost, these bills are the victories of the community members who demanded them, who organized for them, and who shared their testimony with the legislature,” she says. “Colorado’s immigrant community made their voices heard this legislative session, and their representatives listened. We are proud to live in a Colorado that is more welcoming and just to immigrants than ever before.”

The following bills became Colorado law on June 25th:

HB-1194: An immigration legal defense fund will expand the availability of free legal services and representation to low-income individuals in immigration proceedings, with a priority on those in immigration detention and those experiencing deportation in rural areas of the state. The Office of New Americans will award grants through this fund to nonprofit organizations in Colorado to provide this free legal advice, counseling, and representation.

Mekela Goehring, Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN):

“We believe that every single person deserves an attorney by their side as they navigate complicated and high-stakes immigration court proceedings. Today, with the signing of HB21-1194, Colorado shows it is a true leader in the movement for universal representation, as one of the first states in the nation to create a state-wide immigrant legal defense fund. Through the powerful leadership of our immigrant community members, advocates, and elected representatives, Colorado is one step closer to being able to say that every single person ensnared in immigration enforcement proceedings who cannot afford an attorney will have one provided for them, and that justice truly is accessible to all. Creating a statewide Legal Defense Fund is a great move to improve an inequitable system currently failing to provide legal representation for those facing deportation. Access to legal services makes for a tenfold better chance at winning a case. Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning commends Colorado legislators for taking this vital step supporting people seeking to rebuild their lives in the U.S.”

For more information on this bill, please contact: ian@coloradoimmigrant.org

SB-131: To ensure the data privacy of applicants to state programs and services, including drivers licenses, state agencies cannot disclose personal identifying information for the purpose of immigration enforcement, unless required by law or a court-issued subpoena, warrant, or order. State agencies must obtain certifications before providing access to shared databases, must limit collection of information on immigration status to that which is necessary, and must submit regular reports to ensure their compliance with the new law.

Henry Gomez from Grupo Esperanza in Colorado Springs worked for over two years to fight for data privacy protections as part of I Drive Colorado and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition: â€œWe want to thank Senator Gonzales and Representative Gonzalez-Gutierrez for championing this important bill to ensure that ICE can’t access our data for immigration. In January 2022, when these protections become permanent, everyone should feel safe applying for a Colorado license or ID. Thanks to the Senator and Representative who worked with our communities and the governor’s office to protect our right to data privacy, Colorado will become a safer and more welcoming state for all.”

For more information on this bill, contact siena@coloradoimmigrant.org

HB-1150: A Colorado Office of New Americans will create a much-needed structure for state agencies to work collaboratively to promote the successful economic, social, linguistic, and cultural integration of immigrants in Colorado. The office will be a driver of state-wide integration efforts and will provide Colorado with a comprehensive plan for achieving the successful integration of immigrants while uplifting Coloradans’ newest neighbors and ensure that they, and the organizations that serve them, are equipped to succeed.

Jennifer Wilson, Executive Director at the International Rescue Committee in Denver:

“As an organization that serves refugees fleeing war and violence, Special Immigrant Visa recipients rebuilding their lives in our community, asylum seekers and asylees seeking safety, and survivors of torture regaining control of their lives, the International Rescue Committee in Denver applauds the signing of HB21-1150.

A Colorado Office of New Americans is vital to our state’s commitment to being a more inclusive state that benefits all Coloradans. We see the obstacles immigrants face and the need for more and better coordination among state agencies, offices, departments, the immigrant community, and the community-based organizations serving them. As a community-based organization, the work we do to help immigrants navigate systems, find employment, become self-sufficient, participate in decisions that impact them, and integrate into their new community does not happen in isolation. It takes the whole community.”

For more information about this bill, contact victoria.francis@rescue.org

SB-199: In order to create equity in opportunities, effective July 1, 2022, lawful presence will no longer be a requirement for some state and local public benefits, where permitted under federal law. This expands access beyond what becomes available under SB 21-077 and HB 21-1054.

Lorena Garcia, Removing Barriers Coalition:

“Between 2016 and 2020 more than 16 cities and counties across the state passed resolutions in support of immigrant communities. Now municipal leaders and administrators will have the opportunity to better serve their residents and grow their local economies. We look forward to working closely with state and municipal leaders for implementation. Families and communities across the state are grateful that our state leaders continue to work together to remove barriers for Colorado immigrant families.”

In addition to the above bills, advocates, lawmakers and community members will celebrate the passage of several other key pro-immigrant bills that passed this session, including:

SB-009: Through the creation of a new program, Coloradans without documentation, will have access to contraception and counseling services through Medicaid so that they may plan what is best for themselves and their families.

Katherine Riley, Policy Manager at Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR):

“COLOR led a dynamic campaign and secured the passage of Senate Bill 9, which creates aReproductive Health Care Program that provides contraception to undocumented folks through state Medicaid. It also allows anyone who uses Medicaid to get a one-year supply of contraception at a time, in order to reduce barriers. By advancing Senate Bill 9, we are saying no more. We will not turn away from undocumented people in our state. We will do more to ensure that every Coloradan has basic rights and that we are committed to improving the health of our communities – not just those with means or a certain piece of paper.”

SB-87: This bill creates expanded Agricultural Workers’ Rights, regardless of someone’s immigration status, by bringing agricultural workers under the same protections many other workers enjoy – minimum wage guarantees and overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, the right to organize, have visitors at employee housing, and access overwork and health protections.

Nicole Civita, Project Protect Food Systems:

“SB 87 is notable not only for what it does — guaranteeing rights and protections for ag workers in Colorado — but for how it does this. While other states offer an array of protections, Colorado is the first to make such a comprehensive state shift in how it treats its agricultural workers. This legislation also begins a change in the racist and discriminatory system built upon the backs of Black and brown people — and there has never been a time in our nation’s history when agricultural workers were treated with the dignity and respect they deserve as humans, let alone with the rewards they deserve for performing demanding and truly essential work.”

HB-1057: Current law states that it is criminal to threaten to report another person’s immigration status in order to steal money or valuables. This adds that it is criminal to threaten to report someone’s immigration status in order to make someone do something (or not do something). This bill will cover circumstances such as wage theft by employers and domestic violence situations where a victim is threatened by an abuser to not call the police for fear of the abuser reporting to immigration officials.

District Attorney Michael Dougherty, Boulder County District Attorney’s Office:

“We are proud to have helped draft this bill and assist in being a driving force on this bill. This new law is directly in line with our office’s priority on community safety, as well as immigrant protection. Further, it is consistent with the focus that this office has placed on our U-Visa program, the passage of the bill to increase penalties for wage theft in 2019, and the protection of our vulnerable populations. This law is a great step for Colorado in protecting our immigrant population.”

SB-233: Many immigrants without lawful presence are ineligible for unemployment assistance due solely to their immigration status. This bill facilitates a study to help understand what inclusion in unemployment benefits for undocumented Coloradans could look like in our state.

Cristina Lopez, Colorado People’s Alliance:

“I love sharing with our immigrant community this great achievement that could provide relief to taxpaying working people who have been excluded from benefits for not having a social security number not only during but long before COVID-19. We hope SB21-233 is the first step to permanent relief for our communities.”


HB-1060: The “U visa” provides a pathway under federal immigration law towards lawful permanent residency for immigrant victims of certain crimes. Eligible applicants must have a certification form from law enforcement stating that the person has been a victim and is or has been helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. This bill will ensure that all law enforcement agencies complete the certification within a specific timeline, and it also outlines factors that can be considered, protects personal information from immigration authorities, and ensures law enforcement tells victims about the U visa.

Georgina Olazcon Mozo,Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN):

“The passage of HB-1060 ensures greater safety in our communities because immigrant survivors of crime do not have to live in fear that there will be negative immigration consequences if they report crimes. This bill provides immigrant survivors in our communities an equal opportunity to apply for a U visa regardless of where they live in Colorado. It tells immigrant survivors that, after having lived through horrible experiences, they could finally find the light at the end of the tunnel.”

For more information about this bill, contact golazconmozo@rmian.org

HB-1054: This bill ensures that those without lawful presence in the United States can access state and local housing assistance. While some housing programs may have federal eligibility requirements that require certain types of immigration status, undocumented individuals and families will have increased access to housing stability resources.

SB-077: Immigration status will no longer be an eligibility requirement for state and local licenses, certificates or registration. Examples of this include occupational licenses, like Certified Nursing Assistants, or municipal business licenses. This change affects all Coloradans without lawful presence, including those with work authorization such as DACA recipients.

¡Estamos increíblemente emocionados de anunciar que los proyectos de ley de la campaña legislativa de CIRC fueron firmados por el gobernador Polis el viernes y ahora son ley en Colorado! CIRC’s proyectos de ley se encuentran entre los 11 proyectos de ley a favor de los inmigrantes que se han convertido en ley en esta sesión legislativa, lo que convierte a este en uno de los años más históricos para los derechos de los inmigrantes en la historia de nuestro estado.

El gobernador Polis promulga 4 proyectos de ley a favor de los inmigrantes en un año decisivo para la justicia migratoria

Las nuevas leyes críticas incluyen SB-131, que protege los datos que los inmigrantes confían a agencias estatales y locales de ser expuestos injustamente a ICE; y HB-1194, que crea un fondo de defensa legal a nivel estatal para inmigrantes en proceso de deportación.

El gobernador Polis firmó 4 proyectos de ley que protegen los derechos de los inmigrantes en Colorado, sobre temas que van desde el acceso seguro a anticonceptivos hasta una mayor protección para los trabajadores agrícolas. Lisa Duran, Directora Ejecutiva de la Coalición por los Derechos de los Inmigrantes de Colorado, dice que después de años de retórica y políticas antiinmigrantes cada vez más viciosas a nivel nacional, estas victorias estatales se sienten como un cambio bienvenido. “En primer lugar, estos proyectos de ley son las victorias de los miembros de la comunidad que los demandaron, que se organizaron para ellos y que compartieron su testimonio con la legislatura”, ella dice, “La comunidad de inmigrantes de Colorado hizo que sus voces se escucharan en esta sesión legislativa y sus representantes escucharon. Estamos orgullosos de vivir en un Colorado que es más acogedor y justo para los inmigrantes.”

Los siguientes proyectos de ley se convirtieron en ley de Colorado el 25 de junio:

HB-1194: Un fondo de defensa legal de inmigración ampliará la disponibilidad de servicios legales gratuitos y representación para personas de bajos ingresos en procedimientos de inmigración, con prioridad en aquellos que están detenidos por inmigrantes y aquellos que están siendo deportados en áreas rurales del estado. La Oficina de Nuevos Estadounidenses otorgará subvenciones a través de este fondo a organizaciones sin fines de lucro en Colorado para brindar este asesoramiento legal y representación gratuitos.
Mekela Goehring, Directora Ejecutiva, Rocky Mountain  Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN):“Creemos que cada persona merece un abogado a su lado mientras navega por procedimientos judiciales de inmigración complicados y de gran importancia. Hoy, con la firma de HB21-1194, Colorado demuestra que es un verdadero líder en el movimiento por la representación universal, como uno de los primeros estados de la nación en crear un fondo de defensa legal para inmigrantes en todo el estado. A través del poderoso liderazgo de los miembros de nuestra comunidad de inmigrantes, defensores y representantes electos, Colorado está un paso más cerca de poder decir que a cada persona atrapada en los procedimientos de cumplimiento de la ley de inmigración que no pueden pagar un abogado se le proporcionará uno, y que la justicia verdaderamente es accesible para todos. La creación de un Fondo de Defensa Legal en todo el estado es un gran paso para mejorar un sistema inequitativo que actualmente no brinda representación legal a quienes enfrentan la deportación. El acceso a los servicios legales ofrece diez veces más posibilidades de ganar un caso. Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning elogia a los legisladores de Colorado por dar este paso vital para apoyar a las personas que buscan reconstruir sus vidas en los EE. UU. “
Para obtener más información sobre este proyecto de ley, comuníquese con: ian@coloradoimmigrant.org

SB-131: Para garantizar la privacidad de los datos de los solicitantes de programas y servicios estatales, incluidas las licencias de conducir, las agencias estatales no pueden divulgar información de identificación personal con el propósito de hacer cumplir la ley de inmigración, a menos que lo exija la ley o una citación, orden judicial u orden emitida por un tribunal. . Las agencias estatales deben obtener certificaciones antes de brindar acceso a bases de datos compartidas, deben limitar la recopilación de información sobre el estado migratorio a lo que sea necesario y deben presentar informes periódicos para garantizar su cumplimiento con la nueva ley.
Henry Gomez de Grupo Esperanza en Colorado Springs trabajó durante más de dos años para luchar por la protección de la privacidad de los datos como parte de I Drive Colorado y la Coalición de Derechos de los Inmigrantes de Colorado: “Queremos agradecer al Senador González y al Representante González-Gutiérrez por defender este importante proyecto de ley para asegurarse de que ICE no pueda acceder a nuestros datos de inmigración. En enero de 2022, cuando estas protecciones se vuelvan permanentes, todos deberían sentirse seguros al solicitar una licencia o identificación de Colorado. Gracias al Senador y Representante que trabajaron con nuestras comunidades y la oficina del gobernador para proteger nuestro derecho a la privacidad de los datos, Colorado se convertirá en un estado más seguro y acogedor para todos ”.
Para obtener más información sobre este proyecto de ley, comuníquese con siena@coloradoimmigrant.orgHB-1150: Una Oficina de Nuevos Estadounidenses de Colorado creará una estructura muy necesaria para que las agencias estatales trabajen en colaboración para promover la integración económica, social, lingüística y cultural exitosa de los inmigrantes en Colorado. La oficina será un impulsor de los esfuerzos de integración en todo el estado y proporcionará a Colorado un plan integral para lograr la integración exitosa de los inmigrantes, al mismo tiempo que eleva a los vecinos más nuevos de Colorado y se asegura de que ellos y las organizaciones que los atienden estén equipados para tener éxito.
Jennifer Wilson, directora ejecutiva del Comité Internacional de Rescate en Denver:“Como una organización que sirve a los refugiados que huyen de la guerra y la violencia, los beneficiarios de visas especiales de inmigrante que reconstruyen sus vidas en nuestra comunidad, los solicitantes de asilo y los asilados que buscan seguridad y los sobrevivientes de la tortura recuperan el control de sus vidas, el Comité Internacional de Rescate en Denver aplaude la firma de HB21-1150.
Una Oficina de Colorado para Nuevos Estadounidenses es vital para el compromiso de nuestro estado de ser un estado más inclusivo que beneficie a todos los habitantes de Colorado. Vemos los obstáculos que enfrentan los inmigrantes y la necesidad de una mayor y mejor coordinación entre las agencias estatales, oficinas, departamentos, la comunidad de inmigrantes y las organizaciones comunitarias que los atienden. Como organización comunitaria, el trabajo que hacemos para ayudar a los inmigrantes a navegar por los sistemas, encontrar empleo, volverse autosuficientes, participar en decisiones que los impactan e integrarse en su nueva comunidad no ocurre de forma aislada. Se necesita toda la comunidad.”Para obtener más información sobre este proyecto de ley, comuníquese con victoria.francis@rescue.org

SB-199: Con el fin de crear equidad en las oportunidades, a partir del 1 de julio de 2022, la presencia legal ya no será un requisito para algunos beneficios públicos estatales y locales, donde lo permita la ley federal. Esto amplía el acceso más allá de lo que está disponible bajo SB 21-077 y HB 21-1054.
Lorena García, Coalición Eliminando Barreras:“Entre 2016 y 2020, más de 16 ciudades y condados de todo el estado aprobaron resoluciones en apoyo de las comunidades de inmigrantes. Ahora los líderes y administradores municipales tendrán la oportunidad de servir mejor a sus residentes y hacer crecer sus economías locales. Esperamos trabajar en estrecha colaboración con los líderes estatales y municipales para la implementación. Las familias y comunidades de todo el estado están agradecidas de que nuestros líderes estatales continúen trabajando juntos para eliminar las barreras para las familias inmigrantes de Colorado.”

Además de los proyectos de ley anteriores, los defensores, los legisladores y los miembros de la comunidad celebrarán la aprobación de varios otros proyectos de ley importantes a favor de los inmigrantes que se aprobaron en esta sesión, que incluyen:
SB-009: Mediante la creación de un nuevo programa, los residentes de Colorado sin documentación tendrán acceso a servicios de anticoncepción y asesoramiento a través de Medicaid para que puedan planificar lo mejor para ellos y sus familias.
Katherine Riley, Gerente de Políticas de la Organización de Colorado para las Oportunidades y los Derechos Reproductivos de las Latinas (COLOR):“COLOR lideró una campaña dinámica y aseguró la aprobación del Proyecto de Ley 9 del Senado, que crea un Programa de Atención de la Salud Reproductiva que proporciona anticoncepción a personas indocumentadas a través de Medicaid estatal. También permite que cualquier persona que use Medicaid obtenga un suministro de anticonceptivos para un año a la vez, a fin de reducir las barreras. Al promover el Proyecto de Ley del Senado 9, estamos diciendo “no más”. No le daremos la espalda a las personas indocumentadas en nuestro estado. Haremos más para garantizar que todos los habitantes de Colorado tengan derechos básicos y que estemos comprometidos con la mejora de la salud de nuestras comunidades, no solo de aquellas con medios o con un determinado papel.”

SB-87: Este proyecto de ley crea los Derechos de los Trabajadores Agrícolas ampliados, independientemente del estado migratorio de alguien, al poner a los trabajadores agrícolas bajo las mismas protecciones de las que disfrutan muchos otros trabajadores: garantías de salario mínimo y pago de horas extras, pausas para comer y descansar, el derecho a organizarse, tienen visitantes en la vivienda de los empleados, y acceso al exceso de trabajo y protecciones de salud.

Nicole Civita, Project Protect Food Systems“La SB-87 se destaca no solo por lo que hace – garantizar derechos y protecciones para los trabajadores agrícolas en Colorado – sino por cómo lo hace. Mientras que otros estados ofrecen una variedad de protecciones, Colorado es el primero en hacer un cambio estatal tan completo en la forma en que trata a sus trabajadores agrícolas. Esta legislación también inicia un cambio en el sistema racista y discriminatorio construido sobre las espaldas de las personas negras y morenas, y nunca ha habido un momento en la historia de nuestra nación en que los trabajadores agrícolas fueran tratados con la dignidad y el respeto que merecen como seres humanos. solos con las recompensas que merecen por realizar un trabajo exigente y verdaderamente esencial.”

HB-1057: La ley actual establece que es un delito amenazar con denunciar el estado migratorio de otra persona para robar dinero u objetos de valor. Esto agrega que es criminal amenazar con reportar el estado migratorio de alguien para obligar a alguien a hacer algo (o no hacer algo). Este proyecto de ley cubrirá circunstancias como el robo de salarios por parte de los empleadores y situaciones de violencia doméstica en las que un abusador amenaza a la víctima para que no llame a la policía por temor a que el abusador informe a los funcionarios de inmigración.
Fiscal de distrito Michael Dougherty, Fiscalía de distrito del condado de Boulder:“Estamos orgullosos de haber ayudado a redactar este proyecto de ley y de ser una fuerza impulsora de este proyecto de ley. Esta nueva ley está directamente en línea con la prioridad de nuestra oficina sobre la seguridad de la comunidad, así como la protección de los inmigrantes. Además, es consistente con el enfoque que esta oficina ha puesto en nuestro programa de U-Visa la aprobación del proyecto de ley para aumentar las sanciones por robo de salario en 2019 y la protección de nuestras poblaciones vulnerables. Esta ley es un gran paso para Colorado en la protección de nuestra población inmigrante.”

SB-233: Muchos inmigrantes sin presencia legal no son elegibles para recibir asistencia por desempleo debido únicamente a su estatus migratorio. Este proyecto de ley facilita un estudio para ayudar a comprender cómo podría ser la inclusión en los beneficios de desempleo para los residentes de Colorado indocumentados en nuestro estado.Cristina Lopez, Colorado People’s Alliance:
“Me encanta compartir con nuestra comunidad de inmigrantes este gran logro que podría brindar alivio a los trabajadores que pagan impuestos y que han sido excluidos de los beneficios por no tener un número de seguro social no solo durante sino mucho antes del COVID-19. Esperamos que SB21-233 sea el primer paso para un alivio permanente para nuestras comunidades.”

HB-1060: La “U-Visa” proporciona un camino bajo la ley federal de inmigración hacia la residencia permanente legal para inmigrantes víctimas de ciertos delitos. Los solicitantes elegibles deben tener un formulario de certificación de la policía que indique que la persona ha sido una víctima y ha sido útil en la investigación o enjuiciamiento del delito. Este proyecto de ley asegurará que todas las agencias de aplicación de la ley completen la certificación dentro de un plazo específico, y también describe los factores que se pueden considerar, protege la información personal de las autoridades de inmigración y garantiza que la aplicación de la ley informe a las víctimas sobre la U-visa.
Georgina Olazcon Mozo, Red de Defensa de los Inmigrantes de las Montañas Rocosas (RMIAN):“La aprobación de HB-1060 garantiza una mayor seguridad en nuestras comunidades porque los inmigrantes sobrevivientes de delitos no tienen que vivir con el temor de que haya consecuencias migratorias negativas si denuncian delitos. Este proyecto de ley brinda a los inmigrantes sobrevivientes en nuestras comunidades la misma oportunidad de solicitar una U-visa independientemente de dónde vivan en Colorado. Les dice a los inmigrantes sobrevivientes que, después de haber vivido experiencias horribles, finalmente pudieron encontrar la luz al final del túnel.”

Para obtener más información sobre este proyecto de ley, comuníquese con golazconmozo@rmian.org

—HB-1054: Este proyecto de ley garantiza que las personas sin presencia legal en los Estados Unidos puedan acceder a la asistencia de vivienda local y estatal. Si bien algunos programas de vivienda pueden tener requisitos de elegibilidad federales que requieren ciertos tipos de estatus migratorio, las personas y familias indocumentadas tendrán un mayor acceso a los recursos de estabilidad de la vivienda.

—SB-077: El estado de inmigración ya no será un requisito de elegibilidad para licencias, certificados o registros estatales y locales. Ejemplos de esto incluyen licencias ocupacionales, como asistentes de enfermería certificados o licencias comerciales municipales. Este cambio afecta a todos los residentes de Colorado sin presencia legal, incluidos aquellos con autorización de trabajo, como los beneficiarios de DACA.

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Pride Month & Resisting Corporate Take Over

In case you haven’t noticed, the corporate take-over of #PrideMonth has begun. 

As the general support for LGBTQ rights grows, so does the corporate incentive for brands and companies to position themselves in sync with that growing sentiment. 

In that commercialization lies the disconnect: Brands promoting gay pride are not consistent in actually supporting the rights of the LGBTQ community, but they do manage to capitalize on the growing number of people (aka consumers) wanting to show support and solidarity.

But in reality, all this commercialized support is ultimately utterly empty and harmful.

The commercialization of Pride Month has blurred and simplified the ways to actually support LGBTQ folks. A first step has to be looking past the easy-to-sell concept of rainbow awareness’.

Updating your log to display a rainbow flag ain’t awareness if that is where your support ends!

It is our job to show solidarity not only during Pride Month, but all year long. Supporting organizations that are queer-led such as FCCAN and Fuerza Latina is one place to start.

Here are just a few other queer led healing spaces & movement building spaces we encourage you to support with whatever resources you may have (time, money, spreading the word on social media, etc) :

Colectivo Intercultural TRANSgrediendo

Queer Healers Directory

Queer the Land

NoCo Splash

Survived & Punished

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Reflections on ancestors, whiteness and environmental justice

by Sam Murray

With my time as an intern for FCCAN coming to an end, I’ve been reflecting on the many experiences and lessons learned this past year. While 2020 was a difficult year for me, as it was for almost everyone, it was also a year of reconnection where I set out to understand who I am in relation to my family and family’s past. It’s bittersweet to know that I am leaving by the end of the summer, having finally formed a connection with this place after living within the insulated bubble of CSU for three years. However, I have so much gratitude for the people I have met and the stories of my family and ancestors that I have uncovered and brought to light. I started my internship with a focus on environmental justice (EJ), spending time with both the Environmental Justice Working Group and the Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ) at CSU. Spending so much of my time researching environmental injustices, brought to mind the proximity that I have to EJ.

I was born to young and poor parents struggling to make it by in rural Kansas. My family moved to Colorado when I was ten, in hopes of a more promising future. Similar to my parents, both my paternal and maternal great grandparents came to the Great Plains in search of opportunity and to escape famine, assimilation, and displacement. My mother is Swedish and Volga German and, from what my Father knows, he is of Irish and Volga German descent. Both families were able to take advantage of the Homestead Act, acquiring stolen land to settle and farm in Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. While digging through my family history I Iearned that my Great Grandfather wanted to immigrate to America because of the shortage of food in Gotland, Sweden. Similarly, my Volga German family came to the States during the turn of the century, escaping famine and the growing anti-German sentiment from the Russian monarchy.

The farm that my dad grew up on

While the Volga Germans were facing increasing conflict, and by the 1920’s would be subjected to genocide, they settled land that lived on by Indigenous peoples. The Russian monarchy had been trying to “civilize” the Volga region and failed multiple times. The Manifesto that brought ethnic Germans and Ukrainian to this region was just another strategy to infringe on the autonomy of the Chuvash, Bashkirs, Kalmyk, Kyrgyz, Mordvins, and Tatars. Similarly, Swedish people of Nordic descent have encroached and stolen traditional Sami land, forced assimilation policies, and instilled anti-Sami sentiment within their society.

While my great grandparents and their families sought refuge in the Great Plains, this opportunity came at a great cost and environmental injustices claimed the lives of most of them, leaving the small family I now have today. Most of my extended family and many of my immediate family have died from rare forms of cancer. Growing up in Kansas, in poor and rural areas, my Great grandparents and Grandparents had farmed wheat, corn, and worked in hog farms. Both my parents remember the green and pink pesticide clouds that would be sprayed over their houses. My Dad recounted that he would be playing outside when the planes would come, and my grandmother would be at the door screaming for him to run back to the house. He would often get stuck in the clouds. Similarly, he remembers the run-off lagoon at the hog farm and the horrifying smell in the air that he said, “stuck to my skin and clothes.”

Here is my mom’s family in Kansas during the dust bowl:

My paternal grandfather and his five siblings all died from cancer in reverse order, with
the youngest, Karen, dying first at the age of 47 from breast cancer. Considered “radical,” Karen
had the most liberal views for their nuclear and conservative family. Which is probably why no
one listened to her when she told everyone that she might have found evidence that their family
was exposed to toxic waste in the 60’s. With so many family members and relatives dying of
cancer, it quickly became normalized and by the time I had turned 12, I remember having gone
to more funerals than family gatherings. Now, as my parents go to check-ups, remove polyps,
and monitor what doctor’s call “high-risk genetics,” I fear that the environmental harms that
have pervaded my lineage will find its way back into our small family’s life again. Which
obviously is to say that it had never even left.

However, the environmental privilege that my living-immediate family holds, is the piece
of this story that I hope leaves with you as a reader.
Environmental justice issues are often
intentional and as a direct result of populations marked as “surplus” or “sacrificial”.
White settlers experiencing environmental injustices is not uncommon, for anyone can be impacted by EJ. However, white settlers, like my family, are often able to remove themselves from an environmental justice situation. Or they are able to leverage their privileges and bring to light the EJ issues that is impacting them–and sometimes even before it does impact them (i.e. DAPL was originally planned underneath Bismarck, ND). My family can serve as an example where they had enough generational wealth from allotted property, that many could afford medical expenses or move out of the area.

As I have tried to unpack my whiteness over the past four years at CSU, confronting my
familial and personal history with environmental justice has been foundational for me in
reconnecting with who I am.
However, as a white settler it is not enough to just know where I come from before my ancestors assimilated into American whiteness, nor how EJ has impacted me. It is essential to understand the environmental privilege that white settlers hold, despite how environmental harms have impacted them. While my family and ancestors directly perpetuated the genocide of Indigenous peoples by settling allotted land, this legacy unmistakably lives on today with me as I am implicated and participate in the ongoing structure of settler colonialism.

My journey to reconnect with my family’s past is continuous, and I realized that I have a great need to reconcile for not only the violence ensued onto my family and the land they were on, but the violence they have perpetuated and benefited from.

I believe there is deep significance in the identities I hold, the histories of my relatives, and the cancer and disease that has taken the lives of so many of my family members. I’m not sure what that significance is, but I hope to transform that significance into something meaningful. Reconnecting and reckoning will be a lifelong process. I hope that now that I am starting the process, I will find the answers and connections I am searching for. Until then, I am thankful for the family that I have, the family that I have chosen, and the friendships that ground me.

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#FreePalestine and following the ones who know the way

The conversation about “Israel vs Palestine” is wrought with intense feelings and loyalties. It is a complex mess of history and harm that has shaped the people of the region for generations.

But it is not a conflict. Conflict implies a balance of power of which there isn’t one here. “There is an active oppressor (Israel) and an oppressed (Palestine). A colonizer (Israel) and a colonized (Palestine).” 

Nor is it someone else’s problem. Each year, $3,800,000,000 of our tax dollars are invested in Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Palestinians have been existing under the longest illegal occupation in modern history. And the Human Rights Watch just released a report charging Israel with crimes against humanity and officially declaring it an apartheid state.

There is so much to do domestically – so much to repair and make right – that it is often difficult to acknowledge the what is happening around the world. But our struggles are intertwined as we stand against all forms of oppression and continue to fight active western imperialism and colonialism in Palestine and beyond. Which is “why we must be internationalists in the struggle” as Nelini Stamp encourages us.

Internationalism recognizes that the freedom of the other is bound in our own freedom and vice versa. Nelson Mandela knew this when he said “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians”. Don’t duck this issue because it seems heated and complex. Learn what you can, and engage with others.

The US is not only complicit in the violence and occupation of Palestine, it’s deeply invested. We have a part to play in this. Here’s how you can take action:

  • PRESSURE US GOVERNMENT. Demand that the US a) end military funding to apartheid Israel and similarly criminal regimes of oppression worldwide, (b) ban all goods/services of companies operating in Israel’s illegal colonial settlements; and (c) demand a UN investigation of Israeli apartheid. Sign here.
  • SUPPORT H.R. 2590: Representative Betty McCollum’s historic bill, H.R. 2590, the Palestinian Children and Families Act ‘insists on the rights to safety, dignity, and freedom for the Palestinian people: the freedom to thrive, free from child detention, home demolitions, continual Israeli annexation and land theft. Tweet your Congress Members to become co-sponsors. 
  • BOYCOTT. DIVESTMENT. SANCTIONS. BDS is a Palestinian-led movement that upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. the movement is fighting for liberation from ethnic cleansing, dispossession, colonization, war crimes and apartheid through withdrawing support and investments from the State of Israel and from companies that sustain Israeli apartheid. Here’s a list.
  • On social media? Follow: Listen, learn and respond to the leadership of Palestinian solidarity organizations including @eye.on.palestine @theimeu @landpalestine @adalajusticeproject @ifnotnow
  • DONATE to Palestinian organizations on the ground like Grassroots Jerusalem.
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Unplugging from crisis mode

Artemio Morales is founder of AltSalt, a website aiming to connect underserved publishing communities in hopes of collectively envisioning an alternative world. We’re currently in alpha and looking to connect with zinesters, comics creators, gamemakers, and more; anyone interested in learning more can feel free to email artemio@altsalt.com or apply for an account onsite.

A couple of years ago, I’d been programming so much that my fingers started hurting as a result of repetitive stress injury. I’d been working on my full-time job, then coming home and moonlighting an earlier incarnation of AltSalt, but in that pursuit, I’d begun neglecting my health.

In that same way, a million urgent issues demand our attention everyday. While it’s true that urgency exists, taking a long view of history can allow us to unplug from crisis mode, think strategically about our goals, and plan for the long run — not just on a cosmic scale, but the scale of our own bodies and health too.

Around us, so much is sacrificed in the pursuit of progress that it can feel transgressive to put healthier, more sustainable practices into place. When it comes to showing up everyday though, should we be sacrificing our physical and mental wellbeing for our pursuits? If we are doing so, what kind of outcome are we really working towards?

Recently, I’ve begun to understand that to have a different outcome, we must do things differently — to work towards a better world, we need to foster, cultivate, and live that better world right now. Each small step is an accomplishment that, taken consistently, can weather mountains, shape landscapes, move reality.

One of our greatest human traits is the ability to see into the future. Focusing so much on the short term, it’s easy to forget how powerful that is. I believe It’s possible to holistically work towards a new outcome; all we need is to take a moment to reflect, and consciously choose the steps to get there.

Surviving and Diving

I love this book of poetry by Brian Walker reflecting on the tumultuous events of 2020, from the election, to BLM, to the pandemic and racism. To read this helped in my own processing of those events; some refrains have stuck with me, and even feel like a part of me.

Brian started writing this on his 32nd birthday, and I resonated in particular with his reflections on aging. I’m 30 now, but could have probably benefited from this wisdom in my 20’s 😆 (What is resonance?).

For more info on resonance, here’s a PDF that talkes about the practice and its theoretical underpinnings (you can find even more information via the organization Relational Uprising).

Note: This book costs $8, though can be previewed in browser (AltSalt doesn’t take commissions on recommendations).

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