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Denver sending city employee to El Paso, Texas, to meet with immigrants

The employee will inform immigrants about Denver's new immigration strategy in an effort to manage expectations.
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Posted at 5:02 PM, Apr 25, 2024

DENVER — The City of Denver will send one of its employees to El Paso, Texas, in the coming days to meet with immigrants and inform them of the new immigration strategy.

Victoria Aguilar, public information officer for Denver Human Services, will leave for El Paso on Saturday.

The city’s immigration strategy has shifted in recent weeks. Instead of focusing on helping all immigrants who arrive, the city is managing expectations.

"We want people to know what the new plan is. We don't want them to think that it is the old plan,” said Jon Ewing, a spokesperson for Denver Human Services. "We know that often things are miscommunicated to folks before they ever arrive in Denver. We also know there's a large number of people who arrive in Denver knowing nothing about Denver, having never intended to come to Denver."

The city is limiting shelter stays to no more than 72 hours as it focuses on helping people through its Asylum Seekers Program.

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Aguilar will spend about a month in El Paso. She wasn’t available for an interview on Thursday but Ewing, who is one of her colleagues, said Aguilar will meet with immigrants as well as nonprofit leaders while in Texas.

"What we wanted to do is go down there, have a conversation with folks on the ground in El Paso, and say, "What are people being told? What are they hearing before they even arrive in this country?" And see where the disconnect lies,” Ewing said.

Even though immigrants have put a strain on the city’s budget, Ewing said Aguilar’s visit to El Paso is not necessarily meant to discourage immigrants from coming to Denver. But it’s not meant to encourage them to come either.

"We don't want to encourage people to come here and think that they're getting six weeks of travel or six weeks of stay, that's for sure,” Ewing said. “But no, it is not a means of discouraging people."

Sarah Plastino, director of Denver’s Newcomer Program, said Aguilar will also meet with government officials in El Paso.

“She is a native Spanish speaker. She will be working on the ground with stakeholders, newcomers and government officials in El Paso to coordinate and inform people of our policy change and develop stronger relationships with people on the ground,” Plastino said.

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Ewing said Aguilar made a short visit to El Paso after Denver Mayor Mike Johnston announced the city’s new strategy earlier this month. Plastino said Aguilar has been provided with a desk in the migrant reception center in El Paso. Information about Denver’s new strategy is posted in the reception center and throughout bus terminals.

“We want those folks to have accurate information so that they can make the best decisions for themselves,” said Plastino.

Aguilar will leave for El Paso on Saturday.

Since December 2022, Denver has spent nearly $70 million providing support to over 41,000 new immigrants.

Denver sending city employee to El Paso, Texas, to meet with immigrants

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