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From Liberia to the Colorado State House, Rep. Naquetta Ricks opens up about her immigration journey

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AURORA, Colo. — About one-fifth of Aurora’s population was born outside of the United States, and for many of them, the journey was far from easy. Liberian-American State Rep. Naquetta Ricks (D-Aurora), is an example of someone who has turned the struggles of immigration into success.

“As an immigrant, we look for opportunity,” Naquetta Ricks said. “And I think that America is the land of opportunity... And I think just seeing the opportunities here [for] education, seeing the opportunities here for business, we want to take full advantage.”

During her time in office, Ricks has sponsored more than a dozen bills that have been signed into law. Earlier this year, Rocky Mountain PBS reported on a HOA reform bill that Ricks was the primary sponsor for.

[Related: Colorado legislature passes HOA foreclosure reform bill]

In the 2022 midterm election, Ricks, a Democratic, cruised to reelection against Republican candidate Le Sellers to represent District 40, which covers southeast Aurora.

In addition to serving in the State House, Ricks is a community leader, social activist, and the president and co-founder of the African Chamber of Commerce.

The African Chamber of Commerce is a nonprofit that brings resources, tools, and access to immigrant businesses. For example, the organization helps African-owned businesses with networking, promotions as well as provides financing expenses so owners can more easily grow their companies. 

Colorado Voices

State Rep. Naquetta Ricks shares her immigration journey

Ricks, who became an American citizen in her early 20s, said she owes her accomplishments to her family, which has overcome devastating circumstances. In the time leading up to the First Liberian Civil War, Ricks’ mother, Miriam Eudora Ash, was engaged to a Liberian government official. He was killed in the 1980 military coup. After her fiancé's killing, Ash moved the family to the United States and eventually settled in Colorado, where Ricks has been living for more than 40 years. She attended Aurora Central High School and earned degrees from Metro State University Denver and University of Colorado Denver.

After Ash passed away, Ricks said her aunt Adriana Henderson, who also lives in Colorado, raised Ricks and her sister. Henderson was Ash’s younger sister.

“She is just like my big sister,” Henderson said about Ricks. “When she wants something, she goes after it.”

Naquetta said that her mother is her biggest inspiration. She shared that her mother worked for the United Nations and made it her mission to help families and children back in Liberia.

“There are so many people in refugee camps right now, there’s so many people seeking asylum my family was an asylum seeker and it can be sometimes tough to get either [the] lotto or immigrant visa to come [to America],” Ricks said. “Once people get here, they’ve come through trauma, they come [from] war, they’ve come through famine, they are running for their lives.”

Ricks said that she never saw herself in politics. She explained that many immigrants tend to avoid discussing politics because many of them feel they could potentially put themselves or their families in danger for expressing their opinions.

It wasn’t until Emerge Colorado approached Ricks in 2013 about going through political training that she decided to pursue a career in politics. Emerge Colorado is an organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office.

Ricks said that of all she’s accomplished, she hopes her most significant legacy is being a voice for immigrants.

“Having voices and organizations that can advocate for that specific [Black immigrant] population who is typically underserved is very, very important,” Ricks said.

Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at

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