The relationship between law enforcement, businesses, and immigrant communities in Weld County Colorado is fraught with lots of suspicion and recriminations. The area encompasses Greeley and Fort Morgan where lots of Mexicans, Sudanese and Somalis live and work.
In Weld County, that relationship may be changing for good. It was reported the week of July 9 by several news organizations, including The Denver Post, that the county’s District Attorney, Ken Buck, has introduced a program to protect immigrants.
According to information posted on the Weld County website, the “Prevention and Reporting Campaign Tackles Crimes Against Immigrants.”
“Weld County is home to a large population of immigrants from countries across the globe, including: Burma, Djibouti, Mexico, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 9.5 percent of Weld County’s 252,825 residents were born in a foreign country. Nearly 19 percent of Weld County residents speak a language other than English at home.”, the announcement stated.
Why did the county decide to do this now? A statement from the DA’s office, related in a July 10 press release said in part that the county has a responsibility “to arm people in our community with knowledge.”
A recent history of the county reveals the following:
“Buck has been criticized for his handling of cases involving immigrants, including a raid on a tax preparer’s office to gather evidence for identity-theft cases.” according to The Associated Press.
A much-publicized incident in 2008 where an estimated 100 Somalis were fired from their job by Swift and Co, a meat packaging company where they worked, became the focus of much scrutiny from local and international press and immigrant groups.
In a May 15, 2008 editorial, the Greeley Tribune stated:
“The Somalis, like refugees from varied backgrounds before them, have come to Greeley for the opportunities it offers. Their presence, however, is not just about opportunities for them; it is also an opportunity for all of us. It is an opportunity to grow and expand our world. The essential strength of America is the country’s ability to embrace the best of many cultures. While the customs that come from half a world away can seem scary, they will — like the customs of the Russian-Germans a century ago — enrich our lives. The Somali, and other East African, refugees that represent Greeley’s first distinct immigration wave of the 21st century are fully documented, legal workers. They deserve all the opportunities they get.”