Refugees in Steamboat Springs unaffected by Trump order, but Dreamers await direction from new administration
February 1, 2017
Steamboat Springs — West African refugees who have made Steamboat Springs their second village have not been impacted by President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily halting immigration into the country from seven majority-Muslim nations.
But local groups that offer help to immigrants are still waiting to see whether the new administration makes other changes that could impact the lives of dozens of other immigrants who live in Northwest Colorado.
Most of the city's political refugees came to the Yampa Valley in the early 2000s from Senegal after they had to flee Mauritania in West Africa due to racial tensions and persecution.
Many Steamboat residents meet these refugees when they go through the checkout lanes at City Market and Walmart.
Though Trump's executive order affects immigration from three African countries, Senegal is not on the list.
"I think they'll be OK," Integrated Community Executive Director Sheila Henderson said Wednesday about the local refugees. "We've been following it closely. We don't know of anyone right now that's going to have an issue."
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Henderson said there are about 30 of these refugees from West Africa living in the community, and some of them have even gained U.S. citizenship since they arrived.
While some have gained permanent residency status, others, who are here on visas, work in Steamboat and have not been able to return home to see their families.
Gaining permanent refugee status in the country is an intense process, Henderson said.
While the executive order has not impacted the local refugee population, Henderson is waiting to see how the new administration might affect another group of local immigrants: The Dreamers.
In 2012, former President Barack Obama approved the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, which has allowed 750,000 undocumented immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. as children, to get work permits and temporary residency.
During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to end DACA.
The Los Angeles Times reported last week that while immigration hawks were pressuring the president to stick to his campaign pledge and end the legal protections for these immigrants, "the immigrants themselves are cautiously relieved that he appears to be backing off."
Henderson said she's also hoping the president won't undue the work of the previous administration and remove the legal protections for the Dreamers.
Henderson said she knows of 153 young people in Northwest Colorado who would be impacted if the DACA program is terminated.
"That would be a huge impact," she said. "A lot of these kiddos are on scholarships with in-state tuition at CMC or the college in Craig. And some of them are bilingual and have supervisory positions at Wyndham and Ski Corp."