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City of Denver hosts work permit clinics to help expedite process for migrants

City officials said the clinics have helped around 400 newcomers so far.
Work permit clinics in Denver
Posted at 5:35 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 19:40:37-05

DENVER — The City of Denver has organized work permit clinics for newly arrived migrants to help expedite the employment process.

During the clinics, local nonprofits, volunteers and city staff help newcomers fill out the necessary paperwork to receive federal work permits. Nearly 400 migrants have benefited from the clinics so far, according to city officials.

City-run shelters conducted eligibility pre-screenings ahead of two large-scale clinics at the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building on Feb. 15 and Feb. 16.

As of Tuesday, the city is sheltering 2,807 migrants. City officials said they are working diligently to connect individuals with housing, work authorization, job opportunities, and onward travel.

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While the recent clinics will help hundreds of people, the city said a great number of individuals arriving in Denver remain ineligible for work permits and, as a result, do not have reliable means of supporting themselves. Mayor Mike Johnston has called on the federal government to expand work authorization access and provide additional funding to cities managing the migrant response

Jefferson, a new arrival from Ecuador, said he walks from Denver to Aurora daily to find work at the Dayton Street Day Labor Center.

“It’s complicated being a migrant. It’s not easy," he said in Spanish. “Without money, without knowing anyone here, how are we going to eat and survive?"

 Mateos Alvarez, executive director at the Aurora Economic Opportunity Coalition, said they've seen an influx of people at the Dayton Street Day Labor Center.

"The Aurora Economic Opportunity Coalition is the fiscal sponsor of the Dayton Street Day Labor Center as well as the Northwest Rural Migrant Response Network," said Alvarez, "We've always been a hub for day laborers coming to our space. With that influx, it created some challenges for our community, where we had an equilibrium of work versus workers. With this new influx, we now have way more workers than we do the amount of work that is needed to sustain this growing migrant community."

He said there is a network of nonprofits in Aurora that are stepping up to help.

"We are working hard to work with some partners and cities and states and our federal government to connect with the larger employers to create a pipeline from northwest Aurora to these employers so that we can get hundreds of migrants working as soon as possible and a legal pathway to be able to do that," Alvarez said.

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Meanwhile, the City of Denver said it will continue to host clinics to help those who are eligible for work permits.

"We've been able to help a lot of people. We're going to continue to try and help as many people as we can," said Jon Ewing with Denver Human Services. "It really does come down to at the end of the day, you know, our hands are tied when it comes to the great number of people who are just not eligible for this at all, despite their deep wishes to work."

Ewing said less than 25% of newcomers are currently eligible for work permits. The city is working to find ways to help with that.

"It continues to be an extraordinarily tricky situation when you have people who so badly want to work. They can't because they're just not authorized to do so," said Ewing.

The City of Denver will not disclose the location or times for the legal clinics, but city staff encourage immigration attorneys to reach out to the city if they're interested in volunteering.

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