I spoke to Nancy from Lamar Unidos last week to discuss the origin of the Lamar Colorado grassroots group, the making of a social justice organization, and the future of Lamar Unidos in the southeast region of Colorado. She is a member of the 7-woman group of changemakers working in Prowers County.
Lamar Unidos – a group of 7 immigrant women – was formed in 2015 to try to educate the community about how to obtain the prized DMV appointments for undocumented community members to get a driver’s licenses. The group was formed organically, and Nancy notes that there was no one leader, but later realized they needed to get organized. She says that is how it all started. Now, she says all 7 original members are still part of the organization, but 3 women have not been as active due to family obligations at the moment.
In 2013, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition helped usher the Colorado Road And Community Safety Act – Senate Bill 251 – through the Colorado Legislature and into law, which provides access to driver’s licenses to all Coloradans regardless of immigration status. However, the DMV system quickly got overwhelmed by the large number of requests from Colorado immigrants seeking a driver’s license due to the limited availability of such appointments, thus the need for grassroots groups like Lamar Unidos.
Becoming a CIRC Member
She says she later started to participate in the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition through the southern regional organizer and became knowledgeable on many subjects and begun to work within the committee system to help move policy priorities through the Colorado Legislature. They have also participated in Latino Advocacy Day, lobbying for state policy changes, and the Annual CIRC Member Assembly to decide policy priorities.
Over the last 3 years, Lamar Unidos has helped over 250 people to get their driver’s licenses in Prowers county and has more recently begun to provide Know Your Rights trainings in case anybody has an encounter with ICE. The group has hosted Know your Rights trainings in neighboring small towns Holly, Granada, Springfield, Las Animas, Wiley and Harman in Prowers County as well as neighboring counties.
Immigrants in Prowers County
With a population of less than 11,000 according to latest public record in 2016, the city boasts 13% combined naturalized citizen and immigrant population. Prowers County, home to Lamar, is also home to a 35% Latino population and 12.5% combined naturalized citizen and immigrant population.
Nancy says the organization helps anybody in the community to connect with whatever resources they need. They have begun to help the community do their taxes and obtaining an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which are required for folks to qualify for the SB251 licenses. They do notary work. Lamar Unidos has also been working with the Mexican consulate to bring representatives of the Mexican consulate for the first time in 18 years to the region.
Another aspect of their work is instituting the Plan to Protect the People of Colorado, which is a systematic way of preparing for emergencies in case immigrant families encounter health issues, sudden economic crises or deportation.
What is next for Lamar Unidos?
In February, the previously informal group of women, was certified to become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Nancy says the plans for the future of Lamar Unidos includes creating scholarships for undocumented folks, guiding families through the higher education system, and connecting people with the Lamar Community College. They hope to get their own spaces to be able to provide more