EDITOR: In my community, the African immigrant community, you’ll find a different type of persistence — a celebration of diversity and a drive toward the American Dream.
I came to this country in 1998 in search of a better life. When I moved to Denver, I was ready and willing to work hard to create a life I would have never known back home in Senegal.
I learned English while stocking books at the iconic Tattered Cover bookstore. I was inspired by the gift of opportunity — living in a place where hard work is appreciated and rewarded. While working my next job as a bank teller, I learned to dream big, and over 17 years worked my way up the ranks to become a vice president and branch manager.
The more I became integrated into American society and engaged in my community, the more I felt empowered, aware of my skills and strengths and eager to help others.
In 2006, I founded the African Leadership Group with the simple and straightforward mission to help families — through social, educational, and economic empowerment programs — integrate and prosper in the United States. We educate immigrants on key issues, such as schooling, career and job opportunities, entrepreneurialism, political and community involvement and other integration matters.
It seems our community’s peaceful presence and positive contributions should warrant appreciation, not criticism.
The effects of this criticism has varied, from families taking steps to lower their profile and live as discreetly as possible, to other families preparing to leave the country voluntarily for fear of growing hostility towards all immigrants. This range of reactions has come in the wake of increased incidents of public harassment and threats.
While it is reassuring that communities across Colorado, including Denver and Aurora, have come together in support of immigrants, it’s only common-sense, family-friendly, non-discriminatory immigration reform at the federal level that will allay growing fears.
Congress must take action to fix our immigration policy, keeping both moral and economic perspectives in mind. Rather than engaging in efforts like unrealistic deportation plans and overly harsh entry restrictions, the Colorado congressional delegation would do well to support all those in passionate pursuit of the American Dream — both natural born citizens and immigrants alike.
— Papa Dia is the founder of the African Leadership Group in Aurora