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Contributing toHispanic immigrants

Veronica Whitney

EAGLE COUNTY – Local governments are doing the right thing when they help immigrants in their community, said Tom Ziemann, director of Catholic Charities. “It doesn’t matter how much they contribute,” said Ziemann, who directs several programs aimed at helping Hispanics in the Western Slope. “We are ecstatic with happiness when government helps us.”Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties all contribute to Catholic Charities and other social services that many Hispanics have come to rely on every day. But to Ziemann it’s not about the amount each county contributes.”I don’t want to pit one county against the other,” he said. “What matters is that each county sees the value on what we do.”Catholic Charities, through several social programs, and specifically through the Immigrant Advocacy program, provides information to immigrants about the laws in the country, it does mediation between workers and their employers and also refers them to other agencies when necessary.”Catholic Charities has an advantage of credibility within the Hispanic community than government doesn’t have,” said Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon. “They tend to come from a culture were the Catholic church is very central to aspects of their life. If we want to be effective in the community this is the mechanism.”According to Ziemann, Catholic Charities does most of the work with immigrants in Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties.What counties doEagle County contributes $25,000 from its general fund to the Immigrant Advocacy program, which hundreds of Hispanic immigrants use in the Valley. The county also provides office space in Avon to Darlene Montano, the immigrant advocate. No more information of other programs aimed at Hispanics was available Friday. Garfield County contributes $12,000 to all Catholic Charities programs, including their immigrant advocacy program in Glenwood Springs.Though, not many Hispanics live in Pitkin County, the county contributes $5,000 to Catholic Charities. The county also supports other programs in and outside the county that are mostly used by Hispanics, said Nan Sundeen, director of community relations and health and human services for Pitkin County.”We send a big portion of our money outside the county,” Sundeen said. “We provide money to agencies for people who live or work in Pitkin County. Our low income people don’t live here, so we feel very responsible for our workers.”Other programs aimed at Latinos and Hispanics in Pitkin County include the Aspen Youth Experience, a scholarship for Latinos and the family visitor program in Glenwood Springs.According to Lynn Renick, director of the Garfield County Department of Social Services, the services that Catholic Charities provide through its advocacy program is invaluable.”That includes their housing initiative,” Renick said.The total human services grant allocation to non profit programs in Garfield County is about $300,000. There are some of these programs that provide assistance to Hispanics such as the family visitor program, which gets $25,000 from the county and $20,000 for youth zone, a program provides services to mostly Latino youth.Though the money that funds Catholic Charities’ programs come from grants in the other two counties, Eagle County funds the Immigrant Advocacy program directly from its general fund.”We’ve shown some good leadership,” said Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone. “Immigrants aren’t familiar with our laws and many times those programs help them become better law abiding citizens.” “With the amount of Hispanics we have here, having one person is minimum,” said County Commissioner Arn Menconi referring to Darlene Montano, the Hispanic advocate for Eagle County.Future needsAs the Hispanic population continues to grow, the assistance to the programs should grow as well, Renick said.”Hopefully, the county will be able to continue to provide,” she added.Though he is satisfied and thankful with the help he gets from the counties, Ziemann said some of the towns don’t fund the Immigrant Advocacy program.”Even though immigrants contribute substantially to all these communities. I would liked to see all towns in these valleys appreciate that fact,” Ziemann said.”There’s a portion of the community who is anti immigrant,” he added. “Their anger should be against the federal government not the local government. They have a right to be angry with the federal immigration policies and laws.”Montano agreed with Ziemann.”I don’t think the community at large is very inviting to immigrants,” she said.Montano who recently host an Hispanic orientation event in Edwards said it would help if the private sector would pay their employees to attend those events. The orientations are aimed at helping immigrants understand the laws, banking and insurance issues in the United States. “A lot of problems I get in my office could have been avoided have these people known the laws,” she said.Staff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or vwhitney@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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