DENVER — Denver Mayor Mike Johnston joined the mayors of New York City and Chicago in calling for more federal resources and actions to help the cities deal with the growing migrant crisis.
As of Wednesday, more than 4,100 migrants were in shelters, according to Denver city officials. That’s higher than the previous peak of 3,200 migrants who were in shelters in October.
City officials said more than 100 buses of migrants have arrived in December alone.
“We're seeing more than 200 people arrive per day — 108 buses in December alone — which is extraordinarily high,” said Jon Ewing, a spokesman for Denver Human Services.
Ewing said the city currently has seven shelters for migrants.
“Right now, we're getting by with seven. We may have to open an eighth, that's very possible,” said Ewing.
'We're human and we need help': Migrants seek shelter under Denver bridge
The migrant crisis is now spilling over onto the streets. Many newly arrived migrants have been standing at intersections in Denver, holding signs asking for help. Miguel, who arrived in Denver five days ago, is among those asking for help.
“I don’t want to sit idly by or be here like my countrymen asking for money. I just want to work,” Miguel said.
Johnston said he wants to see migrants like Miguel working, too.
"We do need to dramatically increase work authorization for those folks who are arriving in our cities,” Johnston said.
For months now, Johnston has been asking the federal government to provide more work authorizations for migrants as they wait to have their asylum cases heard in court — a process that takes years. On Wednesday, he joined the mayors of New York and Chicago in renewing that call.
“What we're asking for is that folks that are arriving and are paroled in come with work authorization so we can help them do what they want to do, which is support themselves and support their families,” said Johnston.
Denver sees 300 more migrants arrive in a day as shelter capacity breaks records
In addition to work authorizations, the mayors are asking for more federal funding and a coordinated entry plan so their cities aren't left to deal with the crisis themselves.
The federal government has pledged to reimburse Denver up to $9 million, but the city has spent $36 million helping more than 34,000 migrants over the past year. Johnston said the costs could quadruple next year.
"We're looking at about $160 million of potential costs going into next year's budget. That's almost 10% of our entire city budget. That's a massive impact for us,” Johnston said.
Congress continues to negotiate over a supplemental budget package, which could include more money for cities dealing with a migrant crisis like Denver. Johnston warned that without more federal support, things could get worse.
“If there is no federal support, there's no coordinate entry, there's no work authorization, then I think cities would have to look at dramatically reducing the amount of services we offered or dramatically cutting our city budgets, which has impacts on other parts of city services,” Johnston said.
Here's how you can help refugees and immigrants coming to Denver
If you’d like to help as the city responds to this migrant crisis, you can do so with donations – either material or monetary. If opting for the former, the city is asking for the following items:
- Socks (new/unopened only)
- Bras - small/medium/large
- Women’s clothing - small/medium/large
- Men’s clothing - small/medium
- Winter hats - gender neutral and kids/one size fits all
- Winter gloves - men's, women's and kids/small and medium sizes
- Scarves - various sizes
Those items can be dropped off at the following locations:
- Community Ministry (Children's clothing only), located at 1755 S Zuni Street in Denver, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Thursday
- Para Ti Mujer, located at 150 Sheridan Boulevard Suite 200 in Lakewood, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday or Friday
- Colorado Changemakers Collective, located at 12075 East 45th Avenue in Denver, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday
Please call 720-385-9173 before dropping off donations.
If you want to donate money, you can donate to the Newcomers Fund.