Denver’s emergency declaration extended as migrants housed in city shelters top 400

Denver’s local emergency declaration responding to a surge of migrants arriving in the city is not set to expire on Jan. 17 after the Denver City Council approved an extension Monday afternoon.

Mayor Michael Hancock signed the emergency order last week after asylum seekers, many from Venezuela, started showing up in Denver via bus and other modes of transportation, looking for shelter. Hundreds of people have been arriving over the past several months, but the city has seen a large increase in unexpected arrivals over the last two weeks. Nearly half of the migrants were planning to connect with friends or family in other destinations, according to immigration advocates.

Hancock’s emergency order allows Denver to seek state and federal resources to help meet the needs of the people who have been arriving on a daily basis.

Council President Jamie Torres introduced the resolution at the City Council meeting where she asked members to support an extension because the mayor’s order only lasts seven days and the council isn’t meeting next week because of the Christmas holiday. The number of people coming to Denver has not slowed in recent days, and Hancock said last week that he is not sure when it will stop. The members unanimously approved the resolution by consensus.

On Monday, city officials said 134 migrants had arrived overnight and the city has served about 1,146 people since Dec. 9. There are 408 migrants in city emergency shelters and another 153 in partner shelters

Torres said one of the questions the city has been receiving is why it’s using recreation centers to house the migrants coming from Central and South America.

“I realize this is disruptive of city facilities for the community, but it is necessary,” she said. “We’re not in control of arrivals right now, but we are in control of our response and one that’s in line with our values and deeply built foundations to ensure we’re a welcoming and responsive city.”

She noted that the city is also looking for medical and non-medical volunteers and short-term shelter assistants. Those interested can apply on the city’s website.

“This is an effort that’s near and dear to my heart as a former director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs,” Torres said. “It is not ideal. It is not desirable to have to step in when hundreds of folks are trying to make their way to other cities who are called to do that, they are asked to do that, and we are. And I thank my city for stepping up in this way.”

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