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Migrant advocates say six months of free rent, food, other perks not enough; ‘a slap in the face’


Denver’s new Asylum Seekers Program offering six months of free housing to those in the country illegally is being defended by advocates for the migrants who are saying even that is not enough of a handout.

Despite Denver Mayor Mike Johnston announcing that the Colorado city would offer “a long-term, sustainable response” to the illegal migrant influx which has reportedly brought in an excess of 40,000 migrants to the city since December 2022.

Even as its budget for emergency services has been slashed to accommodate the migrants over the needs of legal Mile High City residents, with the illegal population costing the city about $68 million thus far, the group Housekeys Action Network Denver (HAND) is not satisfied. A protest was staged last week to decry the mayor’s “insufficient” response to the crisis which migrants saw as a “slap in the face.”

“I think that it’s insufficient,” migrant Willy Bastidas told local ABC affiliate KMGH-TV. “The mayor doesn’t represent us … He needs to listen to us and work with us to a better solution.”

“Every new migrant that comes is going to be left to fend for themselves after 24 to 72 hours,” HAND spokesperson V. Reeves told KMGH.“It’s a slap in the face and an offensive period of time.”

Under the new program, anyone arriving in Denver after April 10 is provided with “a short-term stay at a congregate site along with assistance securing onward travel to another destination. Newcomers who choose to remain in Denver may utilize available local and community support,” according to the government website.

The Denver website explained:

The new Denver Asylum Seekers Program will open its doors to the approximately 1,000 people currently in the city’s newcomer shelter system. All of these individuals are potential asylum seekers, meaning they have to wait at least 180 days after applying for asylum to receive work authorization.

Individuals in the program will be connected to housing assistance options for up to six months from the date of their asylum application. Participants will also be connected with an innovative pre-work authorization readiness program, called WorkReady. There they can collaborate with case managers to ensure they are moving on the right track and be connected with workforce training opportunities via partnership with non-profits, local businesses, educational institutions and training organizations. The program also includes access to language instruction, career pathway explorations, industry-recognized credential training and work-based learning opportunities.


“Denver has never turned anyone away and never will. We will still provide temporary shelter so that new arrivals to our city have a place to stay and we will still help them get to family, friends or other networks of support,” Jon Ewing with Denver Human Resources said in response to the criticism.

“We will still provide meals and we will still address immediate medical concerns. But we must transition to a long-term model that serves those currently in our care in a much more substantial way than what has previously been offered. We believe the Denver Asylum Seekers Program does just that,” he added in his statement.

He further explained the sheer magnitude of the numbers, saying that since December 2022, “Denver has devoted countless hours and nearly $70 million to helping more than 40,000 newcomers – more per capita than any other interior city in the United States. With shelter numbers nearing 5,000 earlier this year, we projected that spending could hit $180 million for the year, or 10 percent of the city’s overall budget.”

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