When people look over my bio and notice I have a degree in law and political science and I’ve worked as an attorney, counselor, professor and manager for a higher education ministry, they may assume my family is financially secure or even affluent. What they often don’t realize is when I was forced to flee my home country, I left behind my recognized professional credentials and experience. I traded my livelihood for my family’s safety.
The decision to leave the place where I grew up, got married, and gave birth to my three children was not an easy one. I knew I would essentially be abandoning my entire life history, beloved parents, established career, and everything familiar. But my husband and I also realized volatile political circumstances would mean our family would always be threatened by violence if we stayed. We couldn’t tolerate that kind of life for our children, so we escaped to the United States. We are refugees who only seek what all parents do: a secure, comfortable life for our family and a successful, happy future for our children.
My husband and I are relieved to be safe from the danger we once faced, and we’re excited to rebuild our lives by working hard contributing to our local economy. But like many other immigrants and refugees who are disproportionately represented in lower-wage occupations, we’re still struggling to make ends meet. Over 60% of the parents of Colorado’s dual language learner children — kids under 8 who have at least one parent who speaks a language other than English at home — earn low incomes compared to 34% of kids whose parents speak English. The work I do advocating for early childhood education opportunities for families like mine is satisfying, but it can’t fully support the needs of my growing children and the costs of the paralegal program I’m pursuing as I reestablish my legal career from scratch.
As a working immigrant parent, I know I can cover some extra bills around tax season thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). They give many families like mine more flexibility to invest in educational opportunities to help us fully integrate as new Americans and increase our earning potential.
It’s not just adults who benefit. Research shows that children in families receiving these tax credits do better in school, are more likely to attend college, and can earn more as adults. These kids also tend to avoid childhood illnesses and disabilities associated with child poverty, carrying success into adulthood and subsequent generations through better health. Dual language learners comprise 28% of Colorado’s young child population, and they deserve the best possible start in life.
I represent a large community of immigrants who are incredibly grateful to have found refuge in this country and are more than happy to pay our fair share of taxes. We help make Colorado a vibrantly diverse and culturally rich place while working hard every day to care for our families. Immigrants, refugees and other workers and families who are new to Colorado pay billions in state, local and federal taxes. Yet, like all Coloradans who earn low and moderate incomes, we pay a larger share of our income in taxes than the wealthy.
Gov. Jared Polis has expressed his support for expanding the state EITC and CTC and closing ineffective or wasteful tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy and big corporations — ones we know aren’t growing our economy or creating jobs. By boosting tax credits for working families across the state, Colorado can reciprocate the invaluable contributions of immigrants and refugees, perpetuate our collective prosperity, and build a more promising future for all of the children who call this beautiful state home.
The General Assembly shouldn’t hesitate to pass these policies on behalf of their constituents who need it most.