Denver’s World Refugee Day celebration will focus on refugees’ impact on local economy

For some, the charged political climate adds urgency to the day’s festivities.

Refugees and allies sit on the Capitol steps before Governor John Hickenlooper takes the stage during World Refugee Day, June 20, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Refugees and allies sit on the Capitol steps before Governor John Hickenlooper takes the stage during World Refugee Day, June 20, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Allan Tellis. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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World Refugee Day is here again, and Denver will be hosting its version of these internationally connected events this Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on the west side of the Capitol building.

This year’s festival-style celebration, which will include live music and other entertainment, will focus specifically on the economic impact resettled refugees have on the local economy — which was highlighted in a report released by the state in May.

The Welcoming Community Committee, a coalition of several refugee-focused services in Denver, feels that this theme is right in line with Governor Hickenlooper’s recent proclamation of Colorado’s commitment to maintaining a welcoming environment for our refugee community and his signing of SB-87, a bill that allows refugees to qualify for in-state tuition.

For Lisa MacClure, the development coordinator for the African Community Center of Denver, the charged political climate adds urgency to the festivities.

“I think that refugee resettlement has been under attack recently in the last few years, especially politically,” she said. “It’s important to show our support for refugee resettlement publicly to really show our community why refugees make a positive impact on our local economy.”

The holiday is an international celebration that was created in response to the United Nations proclamation stating the requirement of fair treatment for refugees created in 1951, although the holiday was not celebrated until 2001.

Maytham Alshadood, executive director of immigrant and refugee advocacy group DRIVE Colorado, will have his organization at the Capitol for World Refugee Day registering refugees and immigrants as voters.

“By becoming voters and becoming active, participating members of this democracy we will not only be protecting ourselves, we will be protecting others, and we see that right now as an example with the families being broken up at the border,” Alshadood said.

He noted that, unlike other people that have recently immigrated to the country, refugees have a clear path to citizenship, and that they have an opportunity to protect more vulnerable residents that aren’t able to advocate for themselves.

“We have to look out for generations after ourselves,” Alshadood said. “Do we want to make sure America remains the nation of immigrants that it is right now or do we want to close the door behind us?”

He echoed MacClure’s sentiments about the importance of a day celebrating refugees right now.

“This is a good opportunity to engage the society as a whole in a larger scale so we can reach out to folks that don’t normally hear about us in these settings” he said. “They hear about the Middle East and the displacement, but they don’t hear about the post-resettlement contributions.”

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refugees