May 11, 2023 - News

Denver's migrant response hits emergency mode

Illustration of a migrant woman with her young child walking towards stars and stripes

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios; Photo: Herika Martinez /Getty Images

Denver is struggling to handle a sudden, but expected, surge in people who arrived here over the past week.

Driving the news: Mayor Michael Hancock reactivated the Emergency Operations Center on Thursday to ensure citywide coordination and management in response to the arrivals, emergency management office spokesperson Mikayla Ortega tells us.

Why it matters: Over the past six days, several hundred migrants have arrived daily, putting a strain on resources not seen since a similar surge in arrivals last winter. The surge has been driven by a federal policy expiring Thursday.

By the numbers: There were only about 20 to 30 migrants arriving daily for most of March and April but 378 people were served on Tuesday alone, according to a city statement.

  • There are nearly 1,000 people in four migrant shelters in Denver.
  • As they near capacity, officials are calling on local partners like faith-based agencies to help with sheltering.
  • People coming here are from Central and South America.

Context: As of Monday, Denver has spent $15.7 million on migrant support since last December, according to official figures.

The intrigue: Colorado U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper in a letter on Tuesday urged Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to help the state with its migrant response. The senators are asking for money and to expand work authorization.

  • Denver has only received $248,823 in reimbursements from the federal government since December, according to the letter.

What they're saying: "And we know that we’re responding to a crisis and that things evolve and change, but I don’t think we were ever expecting this large amount of surge this soon," Denver human services spokesperson Victoria Aguilar told Denverite.

Zoom in: People are waiting in long lines at an intake center in Auraria to get necessities like food and water, while others are seeking bus tickets to travel to other cities.

  • One woman told CBS News Colorado she stayed at the intake center overnight.
  • The reception center will be moved from Auraria to a city-owned facility starting Thursday.
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