As Syrian Crisis Grows, A Look At How Colorado Has Handled Refugees Before

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Refugees wait at the Colorado Refugee Wellness Center in Aurora.

The United States has been a minor player when it comes to taking in refugees of the Syrian civil war. But last week, President Obama pledged to accept 10,000 more in the next fiscal year.

Few seem likely to land in Colorado because the Syrian community here is relatively small. But state refugee coordinator Kit Taintor tells Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner that the Colorado has a proud history of resettling refugees from all around the world. Click on the audio link above to hear the conversation and read edited highlights below.

On how many Syrian refugees Colorado can expect:

"We might resettle 2 percent of the 10,000 Syrians that may be resettled next year. So notice there's a lot of "maybes," there's a lot of "proposed." Traditionally, refugee resettlement is mainly family reunification. So over 75 percent of new arrivals are coming to join family that is already established in a state or in a city. Here in Colorado we don't have high numbers of Syrian immigrants or Syrian refugees. There are other states where there are higher numbers so we might see less than that two percent just based on family reunification alone."

On recent refugee resettlement in the state:

"In the past year, our highest populations have been groups from Burma, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and then Democratic Republic of the Congo. While these are all refugees, they come from different experiences and different backgrounds, different strengths and different skill sets."

On Colorado's history of successfully integrating refugees:

"Colorado has a proud history in resettlement. Over the years, we've resettled folks from Vietnam, from Bosnia, from Rwanda and so you see the history of refugee resettlement as you drive around perhaps Metro Denver and perhaps around the state. You see the Vietnamese grocery stores and restaurants, you see the Ethiopian restaurants out on Colfax, so you can see all the legacy of refugee resettlement. But we're proud to say that last federal fiscal year, Colorado actually ranked number one compared to all states when looking at such important outcomes as entered employment, hourly wage or the number of jobs that refugees were able to attain with healthcare benefits."