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'Just arriving is a brave act': Immigration expert details struggles, Denver's response to crisis

The Mile High City has seen more than 40,500 new immigrants arrive since December 2022
Venezuelan Children
Posted at 10:46 PM, Apr 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-05 00:46:56-04

DENVER — For the past few months, Denver and other large cities across the country have been ground zero for an influx of newly arriving immigrants — the vast majority from Venezuela.

Arturo Jimenez, a local immigration expert and professor at Metropolitan State University Denver (MSU Denver), shared his perspective on how the city has handled the crisis over the past few months.

“They get on a bus in Texas or wherever, and then they get off the bus and don’t even know where they’ve arrived,” said Jimenez. “That’s what we’ve seen from folks in Denver. People assume since they have nowhere to live, they have no permission to be here.”

Angel Salcedo
Angel Salcedo, from Venezuela, standing near the intersection of Zuni and Speer, in January, looking for work.

Denver7 has followed the immigrant crisis for several months, including the many ups and downs of new arrivals who are often tired, hungry, trying to find work, and, in many cases, caring for young children.

In January, one immigrant, Angel Salcedo, told Denver7 he arrived with the goal of finding a job but has faced obstacles when trying to obtain a work permit.

He was earning a little bit of money by washing windshields at an intersection near Speer Boulevard.

“I’m here, willing to work in anything," Salcedo said in Spanish.

Jimenez said the reason so many people are choosing to leave their country is because of the massive corruption taking place right now. He described it as an upheaval that started in the early 2000s and has gotten worse.

"Under our own laws, our own historic asylum laws to protect people who are victims of persecution, we've allowed them to come in legally, but then we give them no opportunity to work, very limited opportunities for housing," Jimenez added.

In January, our Denver7 crew followed a Venezuelan couple as they searched for jobs on foot in Denver's Sunnyside neighborhood.

The couple stopped by a manufacturing warehouse when they noticed a "Help Wanted" sign outside. Pedro Franco decided to go in and fill out an application. About 20 minutes later, he walked out with the news that he had been offered a job on the spot.

"One will struggle for a week looking for a job and they tell you 'no' everywhere, and you get depressed. But if you stay positive, it is possible to push forward," Franco said in Spanish.

Venezuelan Children

Twoyoung immigrants from Venezuela told Denver7 of the treacherous journey they had to go through to get to the United States. Cousins Alondra, 8, and Valentina, 10, said it took months for them to get to the U.S. after leaving everything behind in Venezuela.

“It was horrible. We got robbed. Some people would get sexually assaulted," said Alondra in Spanish.

Their family is one of thousands who chose to flee widespread violence and economic instability in their home countries.

“In Venezuela, we’re treated badly. Even law enforcement takes our things," said Valentina.

“There was no gas. The money is not enough to buy food," Alondra said. “There's no good education, no jobs.”

Even though Denver has its challenges and has been criticized, Jimenez said Denver has really stepped it up compared to other areas.

"And you don't see as many of the anti-immigrant sentiments that you see in other states or in other places in Colorado," he said.

'Just arriving is a brave act': Immigration expert details struggles, Denver's response to crisis

In the above video, we take a look back at how they got here, what they’ve been through along the way and what kind of future they’re hoping for.

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