Aurora looking to create Immigrant Welcome Center

A group of immigrant students works through a citizenship class. One in five people of the estimated 340,000 who live in Aurora were born in another

AURORA — The city of Aurora, Aurora Public Schools and other agencies are in talks to open an Immigrant Welcome Center in the city.

Discussions are still in the early stages, but the coalition hopes to have a plan in place by later this summer.

Officials say the need is real: One in five people of the estimated 340,000 who live in Aurora were born in another country; and the Ethiopian community is estimated at 30,000 in northwest Aurora and east Denver.

Aurora is also the landing spot for refugees who flee other countries and come to Colorado to start a new life.

“We are really trying to find a facility to meet the needs of the immigrant community,” said Roberto Venegas, an Aurora assistant city manager who is coordinating the city’s efforts regarding an Immigrant Welcome Center.

A welcome center would likely be a one-stop shop, where immigrants coming to the area can get help or information in a variety of areas, such as housing, employment and education.

While no facility has yet been chosen, one possibility is the centralized admissions office for APS on Peoria Street and East 11th Avenue. That would be near where many immigrants and refugees live and would make for easy access for those who do not have vehicles.

Georgia Duran, spokeswoman for the school district, said it is too early to tell whether the center would be located there or somewhere else.

That building, though, has been accessible for parents in the past and could work for a new Immigrant Welcome Center.

“We’ve looked at a couple of facilities,” Duran said. “We’re exploring some options there, but it’s very premature.”

The welcome center is part of a larger effort by Aurora city officials to reach out and embrace the large immigrant population. Proponents of creating an Immigrant Refugee Commission in the city found that a large percentage of local immigrants feel isolated and underrepresented in the community.

However, the city does have an International Roundtable to foster collaboration with the international community in Aurora and the metro area. Also, for the first time last year, the city held an international flag ceremony at the Aurora Municipal Center, displaying the flags of 25 countries inside the lobby.

Potential partners for a welcome center have not been identified, and there also is the issue of funding a center.

Even so, Aurora spokeswoman Kim Stuart said the center is part of the city’s long-term goal of embracing its immigrant community.

“This is a very important part of our community and part of the richness of Aurora,” Stuart said of the growing immigrant community in the city.

Jane-Frances Echeozo was born in Nigeria but has lived in Aurora for more than 10 years. She is one of several foreign-born people who sit on the Aurora International Roundtable. She applauds the city for reaching out to its immigrant community and says a welcome center is a good step in that direction.

She added: “It is needed because there is such a diverse culture here.”

Carlos Illescas: 303-954-1175, or

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Aurora looking to create Immigrant Welcome Center
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