DENVER— The Denver metro is seeing a spike in the number of migrants coming from the African country Mauritania.
While some migrants have been here for months, local leaders say they are now struggling to keep up with a recent influx.
"We didn't even believe we were going to make it to the United States. So hard it was,” said Mauritanian migrant Nourou Tall through a translator. He came to Denver in May.
A lot of Mauritanian migrants are finding a way to Nicaragua in Central America before crossing into the U.S.
“Back home, they have no respect for human rights, They even have slavery and discrimination between white and Black,” said Tall.
Tall is one of hundreds of Mauritanians who arrived in Denver several months ago in hopes of finding the American dream. But finding the American dream hasn't been easy for these newcomers, according to Papa Dia with the African Leadership Group in Aurora.
“It did get out of hand, primarily because they don't have a place to stay. And most of them came here to initially find work,” said Dia.
Dia said resettlement agencies can't help because those coming from Mauritania are asylum seekers and not part of the federal system. Therefore, the newcomers are relying on organizations like the African Leadership Group for help.
The African Leadership Group has held food and clothing drives and connected the migrants to immigration lawyers, but finding housing and work is tough without documentation.
"It's a crisis. You have some on the street. You have 30 to 40 people living in a one-bedroom apartment,” said Dia.
Hope Communities, which helps people get housing and other basic resources, is also stepping in. President and CEO Sharon Knight said she's reached out to Denver Mayor Mike Johnston for help.
"They were well aware of the issues and were even going to Washington to talk to President Biden about trying to get work authorization to move forward and also get more funding to support the folks who are in Denver,” said Knight.
"Housing is very difficult because without documentation, it's hard to rent a house,” said Dia.
Tall said he's waiting for his documentation, but could be forced to wait six months before receiving a response from the government. He said he will be patient.
“I’m not in a hurry. I have to respect the law of the land,” said Tall.
The African Leadership Group is holding an information session for the Mauritanian migrants once a month. The group will teach English and how to live in America.
In a statement, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston said allowing migrants to access employment is critical to addressing the migrant crisis.
“Mayor Johnston believes that allowing these individuals to get to work and support themselves is critical to addressing this crisis. That’s why he has directly urged the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives to take immediate action to expand work authorizations. We are also working to create additional resources to help people who are eligible for work to fill out the necessary paperwork for authorization while connecting newcomers to resources and support through community partners.”