Denver declares state of emergency as migrants continue to arrive

Mayor Michael Hancock issued an emergency declaration for the city and county of Denver on Thursday in response to the surge of migrants who have arrived over the past 10 days.

Since Monday, 247 migrants have made their way to Denver through various modes of transportation, and 75 arrived at local homeless shelters overnight — a time that Hancock noted puts even more pressure on the system because of the cold weather.

Hancock reiterated at a news conference Thursday that the migrants and asylum seekers were coming either on their own or at the encouragement of nonprofit organizations at the border that have provided recommendations for other places they can go without advanced notice. Many have made their way to Denver via El Paso, Texas.

The declaration alerts Gov. Jared Polis that the city and county of Denver is enacting a state of local emergency, and therefore allows the city, businesses and residents to apply for funding from the federal and state governments.

Hancock said even with the help of local churches, nonprofits and individuals, the city is feeling the burden. Denver has already spent more than $800,000 on these operations.

“Let me be frank: This influx of migrants, the unanticipated nature of their arrival and our current space and staffing challenges have put an immense strain on city recourses to the level where they’re on the verge of reaching a breaking point at this time,” Hancock said. “What I don’t want to see is a local humanitarian crisis of unsheltered migrants on our hands because of a lack of resources.”

A majority of the migrants who have arrived in Denver are from Venezuela, fleeing a political and humanitarian crisis in their home country. Hancock said the federal government and U.S. Congress have been aware of this situation but have not responded adequately. He asked that federal officials put their politics aside and act.

“It is at a crisis point right now and cities all over this country are being forced to deal with something we’re not equipped to deal with,” he said.

Colorado’s immigrant nonprofits said they have been warning about this influx of migrants coming to the state for a variety of reasons, but the state’s top officials previously haven’t taken the need seriously enough. One of the reasons cited for the increase is the Biden administration’s application of Title 42, which doesn’t allow Venezuelans to seek asylum at a port of entry but instead requires they do it from their own country.

But Hancock said Thursday that Polis’s office has been “leaning in” to help, particularly in the last 48 hours, working to identify resources available to the city.

Not all of the migrants who have arrived in Denver will make the city their last permanent location, with some just stopping through until they can get to their final destinations.

The seven-day emergency declaration, which can be extended, states that about 300 migrants have made their way to Denver in the past week and more than 900 over the past several months without immediate plans for shelter. About 600 of the migrants arrived since Dec. 2, according to the city’s Emergency Operations Center.

The city has had to halt some programming at three recreation centers in order to accommodate those needing shelter, and other church groups and nonprofits also have opened up space.

Currently, 402 migrants are being sheltered throughout the city, 102 at church and nonprofit shelter sites.

Hancock urged nonprofits, faith groups and volunteers to help as they can, especially because it’s been challenging to reunite migrants with their families and friends or get them to their final destinations.

The system would have broken had it not been for the churches, nonprofits and individuals that stepped up, Hancock said, but “we need more, obviously.” He asked anyone interested in helping to visit denvergov.org/oem.

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