Hundreds of migrants wait for days to be processed at downtown Denver parking garage

Some of the migrants say there isn't enough food for everyone and they sleep on the concrete floor of the garage.
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 4:04 PM MDT
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DENVER (KUSA) — In a parking garage in Denver, people spend their first days in Colorado waiting.

The garage downtown is now the temporary home for hundreds of migrants waiting to be processed after arriving in Colorado. The people who’ve come in from Venezuela say there’s little food and they’re sleeping on the ground for days at a time in a facility that was never meant to house migrants for days at a time.

The City of Denver says it’s running out of resources to help.

“I feel powerless, sad. This isn’t what we were expecting. We thought the U.S. would open the door and support us. Now we feel alone here. We don’t know what to do,” Isael, a migrant who arrived to Colorado over the weekend after months traveling from Venezuela, told 9NEWS in Spanish.

The garage was converted into Denver’s processing center and is the first stop for migrants arriving in Colorado. The location has been open for months, usually seeing about 20 to 30 people a day for much of March and April. This week, the number of migrants arriving has grown to more than 200 a day. The wait to be processed is growing, often taking several days. The wait wouldn’t be this long if there weren’t so many people to get through.

“I’ve been waiting for two days so that they give me my papers to go to Chicago. I haven’t been given a solution to anything yet,” a migrant named Juan Diego said in Spanish. “I don’t sleep well. I’m used to sleeping in my bed. Now I’m sleeping on cardboard.”

Juan Diego, Isael and other migrants say there isn’t enough food for everyone waiting in the facility. It wasn’t built to house people for days at a time.

“Up until now we haven’t been given anything,” said Isael. “Someone came and gave us a cookie. That’s what I’ve eaten.”

The city says they are providing sandwiches and food here when they can. Other organizations and nonprofits are also working to deliver food. Some of the migrants say there isn’t enough for everyone.

Most migrants here have already been in contact with immigration officials and are waiting for their papers or bus tickets to their next destination.

It’s important to note the city opened this facility as a processing center, not a shelter to house or feed migrants. It worked when the numbers coming in were far lower. People can leave the center and go stay in a shelter or find food if they have connections or money.

Because it’s now taking so much longer to process everyone, migrants are sleeping in the parking garage and a space that wasn’t meant to keep people here for days at a time.

“We’re all human. We’re immigrating to a country and we know that sometimes we won’t eat for a day and then eat the next,” said Juan Diego. “That’s how life is.”

Denver says it doesn’t have enough space or money to support the number of migrants arriving right now. Neither does Colorado.

Denver says its four migrant shelters are nearly at capacity. More than 800 people are currently housed there. Monday, new rules went into effect where the city will only provide shelter to migrants who’ve already been in contact with immigration officials.

Both Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock say they do not have enough resources to help everyone who will be coming to Colorado over the coming weeks and months. They’re calling on the federal government to give them more resources.

“We want to reiterate that non-border jurisdictions are very much impacted by this crisis. Receiving additional funding is essential to caring for the needs of migrants while maintaining solvency of our local finances,” Polis and Hancock wrote in a letter addressed to the Department of Homeland Security.

At the parking garage in Denver, hundreds of people wait. Waiting to figure out what comes next.

“We are scared,” said Isael. “We are scared because we’ve already been through so much.”