Jan 31, 2024 - News

Denver's surge in migrant squeegee workers presents new safety concerns

A Venezuelan migrant cleans a car windshield near a busy intersection in Denver.

Jose Angel cleans a car windshield near a busy intersection in southwest Denver. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

An uptick in migrants crowding busy Denver intersections in an attempt to wash car windshields for money is pushing police to take action.

Why it matters: The surge in squeegee workers underscores migrants' desperation to find jobs amid major work authorization hurdles.

  • Swarming city streets also puts them at risk of being injured in traffic or charged with a crime.

Meanwhile, many drivers are feeling unsafe with some migrants refusing to take "no" for an answer.

State of play: Denver police tell us they are cracking down on the practice through "voluntary compliance by educating individuals … about the dangers of being in the roadway, as well as potential charges they could face."

  • Violations could include soliciting from the roadway, aggressive panhandling, and impeding public streets and sidewalks, according to DPD.
  • The first two charges could lead to 60 days in jail, while the latter could result in a jail sentence of 300 days and a $999 fine, a spokesperson from the City Attorney's Office tells us.

Of note: At least one Venezuelan migrant — Jose Angel, who's been in Denver for about three months — told us he's already been cited by police and given a court date, though he wasn't clear what exactly his charges were.

What they're saying: "We're not doing anything bad — we're just working," Angel told us in Spanish while standing next to cars near Santa Fe Drive and Alameda Avenue.

  • Angel and other migrant workers — who typically start their shifts in the morning and stay until 4pm — said they make between $60 to $80 a day wiping windshields, and aren't concerned about their own safety.
  • Drivers tend to give between $1 to $5 each, Angel said, though he's seen some migrants get larger bills for their service — but it's a crapshoot.

The big picture: With nearly 4,000 migrants in shelters as of Wednesday morning — and hundreds of families on the brink of being discharged from city shelters on Monday — Denver is in the midst of a "humanitarian crisis" and a "fiscal crisis," Mayor Mike Johnston said Wednesday during an interview on "Fox & Friends."

  • "We need federal dollars, but the most important thing is … work authorization for folks when they arrive," Johnston said.

Reality check: Immigration reform at the federal level is all but dead, Axios' Stef Kight reports.

  • As U.S. senators scramble to keep a bipartisan border deal alive, House Speaker Mike Johnson has warned it would be "dead on arrival" in the House.
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