A Denver City Council committee agreed Wednesday to add $750,000 to a contract with the Denver Foundation for providing free legal representation to Denver migrants facing deportation. If approved by the full City Council, legal services would be provided through the end of 2024.
The fund “was developed following an executive order signed by Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock in August 2017, pledging support for immigrants and refugees, including an estimated 55,000 unauthorized immigrants who live in Denver,” according to the Denver Foundation website. “Many of these immigrants work and are connected to family members with varying types of legal status. Legal status is the primary barrier to successful integration into the U.S. for immigrants, yet access to and affordability of legal representation create significant challenges.”
The services will be provided to indigent people making 200% or less of the Federal Poverty Level, or about $27,000. “The Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund of the Denver Foundation provides grant funding to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations who provide immigration legal services to eligible Denver residents in the areas of direct representation, in removal defense or affirmative relief, and capacity building for direct representation,” according to a memo from city staff to the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee. “Since the fund’s inception in September 2018 it has served 2,752 Denver residents and families. Most recently, the fund’s grantees, including those funded by the Limited Legal Fellowship Program, served 903 residents in fiscal year 2022 and into the second quarter of 2023. The fund anticipates that the continued funding of $750,000 will continue to match previous numbers of residents represented and assist in expanding support to some of the 276 eligible Denver residents unable to be served due to organizational capacity.”
Immigrants have been arriving for a year
Immigrants from Central and South America have poured into Denver since last December. Many are fleeing civil unrest in Venezuela. In recent weeks, a second surge of migrants had leveled off, but the numbers are trending up again. According to Denver’s online migrant dashboard, on Wednesday 112 migrants arrived in the Mile-High City. That number has been trending up all week.
The city shelters 2,285 migrants in area hotels and 38 migrants in city facilities, as of Wednesday, according to the dashboard. Immigrant families only are allowed to stay in migrant shelters for 37 days. After that, some families have become homeless in encampments on the street. Many advocates have been expressing concern for the children living in encampments.
Some single migrants have entered Denver’s traditional shelter system, where rising tensions have been reported by advocates. The migrants and Denver’s traditional homeless community have different needs. Immigrants want more than anything to work, and most don’t suffer from substance abuse or addiction issues.
On Wednesday Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he has bussed 7,400 migrants to Denver, and more are on the way.