More than 300 Latinas and Latinos from throughout Colorado convened in Denver on Monday to participate in the 13th Annual Latino and Latina Advocacy Day (LAD), an all-day lobby day program that empowers members of the Latina/o community to advocate for themselves and their families directly with state elected officials during each legislative session. This year’s program had the largest number of participants since its inception in 2007.
“From reproductive justice to economic issues to the environment, Latinas and Latinos will continue to ensure that state lawmakers are held accountable for representing our interests and values,” said Dusti Gurule, LAD founder and Executive Director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “Issues affecting the Latino community need to be at the center of all policy decisions. That’s the only way that Colorado can truly work for all.”
Monday’s all-day program began with advocacy training and issue education, followed by a rally at the west steps of the State Capitol before all participants met with their respective state lawmakers to advocate for key issues impacting the Latino community. Policy areas focused on criminal justice, the environment, and economic, immigrant and reproductive justice.
Guest speakers included Governor Jared Polis, Senate President Leroy García and Latino caucus leaders Senator Robert Rodríguez and Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutíerrez, representing the largest number of Latino lawmakers in the history of the state.
LAD started in 2007 in response to one of the most anti-immigrant, anti-Latino legislative cycles in recent Colorado history. Led by a Democratic-controlled House and Senate, the 2006 regular and special legislative sessions passed a dozen anti-immigrant, anti-Latino bills that promoted hate, discrimination and further divided Colorado communities.
To-date, LAD participants and coalition partners have helped to repair and defeat the effects of the 2006 anti-Latino legislative session and have successfully advocated for more progressive policies, including in-state tuition for Colorado high school graduates and a national model to improve public safety by allowing all communities access to driver licenses — both without regard for immigration status.
“We are encouraged by the historic number of Latinos and Latinas serving in our state legislature this year,” said Nicole Melaku, Executive Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC). “It is a testament to the hard work of our community over the years and to programs like LAD. We will continue to hold all levels of government accountable to ensure that all of our communities have access to the American and Colorado Dream.”
Several Latina/o elected officials spoke at the State Capitol.
Rep. Gonzales-Gutíerrez, recalled the West High School protest that happened 50 years ago on March 20th, 1969 in Denver.
“Chicana and Chicano students at West High School, 5 minutes [from the CO State Capitol], walked out of their classrooms in protest to racism in their school,” explained Rep. Gonzales-Gutíerrez.
She spoke of the police brutality that the students faced, but because of their courage and determination, Rep. Gonzales-Gutíerrez points out that we are able to stand there in the State Capitol where she is a Representative and Latinos and Latinas are behind her in support.
“Your voice is important, and we are here as your Latino Caucus to work together for the betterment of the communities making them safer, stronger, and more sustainable,” she added.
Rep. Rochelle Galindo spoke about her struggle in Greeley, where she witnessed the largest U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid. She was told to “shut up, sit down, and learn my job” when she called for a resolution in support of immigrant and refugee residences while serving as a member of Greeley’s City Council. Representation matters, so incidents dealing with immigrants, refugees, and people of color can be resolved and handled differently than if there was no representation, said Rep. Galindo.
This year’s program was organized by the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity & Reproductive Rights (COLOR); Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC); Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization (CLLARO); Mi Familia Vota Education Fund; Servicios de la Raza; and Conservation Colorado Protégete.
The Weekly Issue/El Semanario Intern, Alexsandra Ruiz-Ortíz contributed to this article. She is a student at Metropolitan State University.
For More Colorado News: ELSEMANARIOCOLORADO.COM
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