Nov 21, 2023 - News

Migrants arriving in Denver are struggling to find work

Yorvi Jose (left) and Luis Diaz pose for a photograph outside a Home Depot in Glendale, Colo. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

Venezuelan migrants Luis Diaz and Yorvi Jose were willing to do just about any handiwork to earn enough money for food or for a proper work permit.

Driving the news: The two men were waving at cars at a Home Depot parking lot in Glendale on Monday morning, hoping to land some work.

  • They've been in Denver for about two months, though Diaz tells us he's found some employment opportunities about 20 total days since arriving.
  • "We come here everyday in the morning," Jose said in Spanish.

Why it matters: Many of the adults among the 28,000 migrants who arrived in Denver over the past year are struggling to find steady work.

The intrigue: Some of them, mostly men, stand outside Home Depots looking for labor opportunities, since they don't have proper authorization to work legally.

  • Mayor Mike Johnston told council members in September that his office had been getting calls from Home Depots because "there are 100 people in their parking lot each morning trying to pick up day labor."

Zoom in: Pedro Bordones, who's from Venezuela, tells us it's been tough since arriving in the city about four months ago. He was outside the massive construction store near Santa Fe Drive.

  • Bordones told us he's usually paid in cash, but he's been shortchanged at least once.

What they're saying: "We need work to be able to survive here," Bordones said in Spanish.

Reality check: The application fee for federal work permits is $545 — too high for many migrants in Denver to afford, including many of the men we spoke to.

The big picture: Gov. Jared Polis has also been vocal with the White House since last December and has requested blanket fee waivers for employment applications from the Biden administration, the governor's spokesperson Conor Cahill tells us.

Between the lines: Some local organizations, including the Rose Community Foundation, are raising funds to help migrants pay for application fees, per the Colorado Sun.

Of note: Bordones and others told us police sometimes ask them to leave the hardware stores when they're spotted trying to find work.

  • Denver police tell us in a statement they have received calls to multiple Home Depot locations in the city for trespassing or unwanted persons.
  • People can be cited if they refuse to leave and if the property manager or owner signs a complaint.

The bottom line: As of Nov. 20, the city has spent more than $32 million providing services to migrants.

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