Texas governor authorizes sending migrants to Denver as the city struggles to help

More than 10,000 migrants have made their way to Denver since December, but on Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the first bus of arrivals that the state of Texas directed to Denver.

Republican governors across the country, including Abbott, have been transporting migrants who arrive in their states to Democratic-led states and cities as a political statement.  Although hundreds of asylum seekers, mostly from Venezuela, have been coming to Denver each week by way of El Paso, Texas since early December, the migrants have come on commercial buses, seeking assistance to get to their final destinations.

Colorado’s state and local officials have previously said that recent arrivals were not a result of political moves by GOP leaders and that the migrants were traveling to Denver on commercial buses, not coordinated by any state entities.

That is, until now.

In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Abbott said the first group of migrants chartered by his state to Colorado were dropped off near Civic Center Park at 14th Street and Court Place Tuesday afternoon.

“Until the President and his Administration step up and fulfill their constitutional duty to secure the border, the State of Texas will continue busing migrants to self-declared sanctuary cities like Denver,” he wrote.

Texas has been chartering buses of migrants to Washington, D.C. since April 2022, and also started sending migrants to New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia last year. The state has bused more than 19,000 migrants to other cities to “provide much-needed relief to Texas’ overwhelmed border communities,” according to Abbott’s statement.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called the move by Abbott “political theater and partisan gamesmanship pitting jurisdictions against each other,” further exacerbating the problem, rather than finding solutions to the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border.

“If Gov. Abbott thinks he’s going to win over allies to his cause here in Denver with this latest stunt, he’s going to be sorely mistaken,” Hancock said in a written statement. “And we’re more than happy to send him the bill for any additional support we have to provide now because of his failure at managing his own state.”

Conor Cahill, a spokesperson for Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ office said the immigration challenge is one that “requires problem-solving and collaboration between cities, states and the federal government, not politics as usual.”

The governor also reiterated his demands that the federal government “secure the border, provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) work authorization permits for jobs, take action on immigration reform, and provide financial resources to non-border states to address this challenge and treat individuals and families fleeing oppression with dignity and respect.”

Earlier this year, the state of Colorado coordinated busing for migrants to other states like New York that were also struggling to keep up with demand, but state officials said they were merely helping transport the asylum seekers at their request, not for political motives.

The first Texas-chartered bus to Denver transported 41 migrants — seven of them children with their families Thursday afternoon, according to the Denver Office of Emergency Management.

Nine of the migrants already had family members who lived in the Denver metro waiting to pick them up at the bus station, said Yoli Casas, executive director of ViVe Wellness. Casas is among the navigators who greet new people when they get to Denver and direct them to resources. The rest of the people on the bus had immigration appointments in Denver — they all have been in contact with immigration authorities, as is a requirement to stay in an emergency shelter in Denver.

Denver and Colorado have been considered so-called sanctuaries as the city and state have passed laws that protect immigrants, regardless of legal status. Immigrant advocacy groups said people have voluntarily come to the area, at the recommendation of nonprofits and other migrants, because of its reputation as a place that can help them with resources along their journeys.

Hancock has repeatedly warned that the city cannot handle the increasing number of people in need of shelter without additional resources and funding, and he has decried the claims that Denver has brought this situation onto itself.

“Denver’s reputation as a welcoming and humane community is not the reason we have a hemispheric migration crisis,” he said last week.

The large surge of migrant arrivals the past couple of weeks seems to be slowly dissipating, at least enough that there is — at the moment — enough shelter space for those who need it and no one is sleeping outside, Casas said. Even the number of people leaving Denver on buses to other states is going down, she added.

On Thursday, 82 people came on buses to Denver, asking for assistance, compared with 109 the day before. But that’s still much more than the 20-30 people Denver was seeing daily in March and April.

Regardless of how the asylum seekers get to the area or who sends them, Casas said the navigators at the processing centers are “going to help, no matter what.”

 This is a developing story and will be updated.

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