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‘What they want is just a chance to be able to work’: Mike Johnston talks to CNN about Denver’s migrant crisis

In a Friday morning interview with CNN, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston talked about the biggest challenges he thinks the city is facing when it comes to the influx of migrants from the southern border
Immigration Denver
Posted at 12:00 PM, Oct 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-06 19:55:19-04

DENVER – Mayor Mike Johnston on Friday said the biggest challenge Denver is facing when it comes to the influx of migrants coming from the southern border is the federal government’s inability to give them access to work.

Johnston spoke about the influx of migrants coming to Denver over the past several days with CNN This Morning, where he also briefly touched on the city’s emergency declaration for the unhoused.

Denver is welcoming between seven and nine buses of migrants each day, amounting to about 350-400 people daily, according to CNN.

In response to the ‘unprecedented’ influx of migrants, the city has already changed how long migrants can stay at shelters. An emergency declaration for this crisis has not yet been declared under the current administration.

Johnston told CNN This Morning that what the city has found is that many of those coming from Central and South America have networks of support already in the U.S. and were never intending to come to Denver. For those who do end up staying, the city helps them get settled in and connected to services.

“They’re not asking for help. They’re not asking for charity. What they want is just the chance that everyone wants, to chase the American Dream and be able to work,” Johnston told CNN This Morning.

The biggest challenge for Denver, Johnston said, is that migrants coming here aren’t able to work.

“We have people here who want to work, we have employers who want to hire them, we have a Congress who stood in the way of their ability to do that,” Johnston said. “I think that's the biggest challenge we see right now.”

Johnston also addressed something he said at the end of last month, when he announced his administration was planning to pivot their support services to helping migrants gain access to work after the federal government gave Venezuelans who arrived before July 31 Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which allows them to apply for work permits.

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“We know if people are here without work authorization, we are going to need more federal support to support them. But our focus is really trying to get them access to work,” Johnston said. “We think if you bring someone to the country and tell them they can't work, there's no choice but to either encourage them to break the law or to make them survive on public subsidy and we think neither of those are good options.”

Here's how you can help refugees and immigrants coming to Denver 

If you’d like to help as the city responds to this migrant crisis, you can do so with donations – either material or monetary. If opting for the former, the city is asking for the following items:

  • Socks (new/unopened only)
  • Bras - small/medium/large
  • Women’s clothing - small/medium/large
  • Men’s clothing - small/medium
  • Winter hats - gender neutral and kids/one size fits all
  • Winter gloves - men's, women's and kids/small and medium sizes
  • Scarves - various sizes

Those items can be dropped off at the Richard T. Castro Human Services Center, 1200 N. Federal Blvd. from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The city is asking that you do not just drive there and drop off donations at the main entrance. Instead, you’re asked to call to schedule your donations drop-off at (303) 514-0643.

If you want to donate money, you can donate to the Newcomers Fund.

Want to donate your time (and get paid for it)? The city is seeking short-term shelter assistants and will pay you $29 an hour for helping out. You can see the job postings here. People with bilingual English/Spanish skills are highly preferred, but not being able to communicate in the language won’t rule you out for the position.

To date, Denver has served more than 21,000 migrants at a cost of $26 million, city officials said.

Mike Johnston addresses Denver’s migrant crisis in CNN interview


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