Chris M. Frésquez
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest statistics, the City of Denver has an estimated population of over 716,000 residents, with close to 30% Latino representation, which is over 214,000 people. The City’s Black community is approximately 10%, Asians represent 4% and Native American’s represent close to 2% — in total, these populations add up to over 328,000 residents.
Denver’s diversity is what makes it a great city. But it’s crucial that we have leadership that values our cultures and contributions. How we are represented matters.
I am a Denver native, who grew up in the Five Point and Swansea neighborhoods. Back then, our families and neighbors respected each other and stood together in unity during difficult times. It was a time where Black and Brown communities found common ground in the discrimination that we experienced together, and movements were created to combat racism and the strains of poverty.
Unfortunately, discrimination continues to be at the forefront of our struggle as human beings. Our nation’s president continues to encourage the act of dehumanizing individuals, groups and races by making people feel unworthy. Immigrants of all backgrounds are being used as human pawns in the grand scheme of racism and economic opportunity for those who are willing to stand for nothing. We are allowing this administration to place Immigrant children and families in detention facilities, in what is basically privately-run internment camps.
We have been here before, how did we allow this to happen again?
With this in mind, the comments made by mayoral candidate Jamie Giellis at a mayoral forum hosted by the Denver Republican Party and the Lincoln Club in March, offered insight to her perspective regarding our Immigrant communities.
“Yeah, I do agree with the sign. That’s why I put it up.”
Mayor Michael Hancock
A question that was directed to each candidate: What do you tell those who oppose the city of Denver being a so-called sanctuary city and would you have a problem with the sign above the City and County building? Denver posted a sign that reads “Denver (heart symbol) Immigrants.”
Giellis responded: “I agree with Ms. Calderón [former Denver mayoral candidate] – this is not about — umm — doing things that in which we are protecting people that have taken illegal actions here – this is about the conversation about immigration – umm, about the fact, as she said, we are a country of immigrants here and to that end, I don’t have a problem with the sign. I don’t have a problem with celebrating anybody who is a member of our community.
“One of things we have are people who are here legally and who are working to become citizens, who time out – there’s a backlog in the system, they are trying to do the right thing, and they are employed, they are trying to have businesses here, they are trying to be members of our community, and we can help in that regard. And I think it is those positive moves to say yes ‘we won’t tolerate crime or criminal activity’ ‘we will comply with authorities, we will comply with ICE’ in that regard. But immigrants and people coming into our community do provide rich opportunity and diversity that we see other cities really working with. The city of Philadelphia has created a whole economic strategy around really supporting immigrants who are there legally, who invest in small businesses and grow the local economy. We have the opportunity to do that – thoughtfully – obviously following the law and doing so in a way in which we help people who want to become legal members of our community thrive and survive in Denver.”
I know we have all heard a quote by Giellis from this conversation, which is used in one of Michael Hancock’s campaign commercials. We felt it was important for our communities to read and understand the entire response in its full content, and to also read the Mayor’s response to the same question.
“I show up, I know who I represent.”
Mayor Michael Hancock
Mayor Hancock’s answer: “Yeah, I do agree with the sign. That’s why I put it up. And let me just say if you were to hold most mayors around this country, we can’t tell you what it means to be a sanctuary city. I’ve talked to mayors all around the country; and it means nothing to us, there is not a clear definitive definition that we would all agree on what it means. The City of Denver is in full compliance with 1373, the law that requires us to surrender Immigrants with a warrant. You must present a warrant to us, to release them and we cannot hold them without that, past the time that they are supposed to be in our detention facility or under our control.”
Hancock added, “I went to South High School and had a conversation with some students and half of the students were Immigrants. If you don’t know, that’s the most diverse high school in the state of Colorado, and they have something like 30 different cultures in the school, that speak 7 different languages. One young lady in that meeting said to me ‘I just want to be treated humanely, not as a throwaway. Let me know that I am worthy and that I matter. I love this country, I want to be in this country, I want my family to live in peace in this country, we want to belong and be treated humanely and like we are worthy.’”
My reaction to Giellis’ response, was well who wouldn’t want to be here legally? Our publication is deeply rooted in our communities, we have always stood with our Immigrant families, and never once, have I come across an Immigrant who did not want to be legal.
Immigrants literally put their life in jeopardy to come here and be legal.
Immigrants cross treacherous deserts and deadly bodies of water to come to the U.S. to be legal. Immigrants, who make very minimal wages, or don’t get paid at all by unscrupulous employers, pay thousands of dollars to be legal. Immigrants are separated from their loved ones to be legal. Immigrant children have been placed in cages to be legal.
Words and their intent matter, and it’s crucial that we support those who act progressively on their word and commitment to our communities.
We need a Mayor who will show up, who will come into our communities, because that is the responsibility of an elected official to equally represent all of its’ constituents.
Giellis declined to participate in a forum that was to be hosted by The Weekly Issue/El Semanario and the Denver Urban Spectrum. So, Bee Harris, Publisher of the Denver Urban Spectrum, and I, joined the Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC), along with the Montbello Neighborhood Improvement Association, CLLARO (Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization), in a mayoral forum last Saturday, which Giellis also declined to attend.
“I show up, I know who I represent,” said the Mayor at a recent forum hosted by the Denver Post.
Mayor Hancock has been a longtime advocate for our Immigrant communities’ and has advanced Denver’s direction in support of these individuals and families. For these actions, we are grateful and endorse Mayor Michael Hancock in his re-election efforts, so he can continue to uphold the values and advancement for all people.
Chris M. Frésquez is the Publisher of The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
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