West Jordan resident selected as a Distinguished Leader by Utah BusinessNov 07, 2023 03:54PM ● By Peri Kinder
West Jordan resident Carlos Moreno received the Distinguished Leader Award from Utah Business for his work to bring in-state tuition to refugees and asylum seekers. (Photo courtesy of Moreno)
Carlos Moreno was a student from Venezuela, attending school in the United States, when the Venezuelan government charged him with treason and conspiracy because Moreno was speaking out about the human rights violations happening in his country.
The regime froze his bank account, leaving him with no access to money to pay tuition and expenses, or even to buy a plane ticket back to Venezuela. He applied for political asylum with the U.S. government which was granted for him, his wife and their son after only four months.
“My asylum was granted in record time…I was lucky, I was blessed,” Moreno said. “So much stuff happened during that time. There were miracles I saw in my life. I don’t know if you want to call them miracles or good luck.”
Two years ago, Moreno founded New Leaders for America, an organization that educates, inspires and encourages the community to be civically engaged.
Utah Business recently presented Moreno with the Distinguished Leader 2023 award, given to him during the Living Color Gala. The event honors individuals who create inclusive programs and initiatives in Utah.
In partnership with several diverse organizations throughout the state, including the Black Chamber of Commerce, the Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Utah LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, the Utah Muslim Civic League and the Pacific Island Chamber of Commerce, the gala celebrates and encourages contributions from different cultures to build inclusion.
“It’s a great honor because it’s helping me to keep working,” Moreno said. “Having this recognition helps spread the message that we can do it, we can create a better world and we can help people even in this environment right now where politics is complicated…It’s like a light of hope for people who want to make a change in their own communities.”
During the last legislative session, Moreno worked with advocates on a bill that would extend in-state college tuition to refugees and asylum seekers. Sponsored by Rep. Jordan Teuscher, (R-South Jordan), HB102 was passed unanimously and signed into law on May 3.
“[Refugee students] are going to be grateful for their entire life for the United States because they finally got an education and a diploma,” Moreno said. “Wherever they go, anywhere abroad, they’re going to have this diploma with them for the rest of their life. That’s why this opportunity is a blessing. They can pursue their happiness, like the Constitution says.”
Moreno has called West Jordan home for the last six years. He and his wife, Norbelys, are raising their three sons in a country he considers a miracle. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Moreno served a mission to Barcelona, Venezuela, before he became a refugee and came to Utah to live in a community where he has friends.
“You don’t want to be alone when you immigrate to some place. You want to be surrounded by people you know,” he said. “What I always say to people is this quote that came from me, ‘America is not a dream. America is a miracle.’” λ