Focus should not be on shipping refugees away
Cots set up in an emergency shelter for people arriving from the southern U.S. border, set up at a Denver rec center, Dec. 13, 2022. (Photo by Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite, Pool)
Colorado needs to tend to the migrants who have arrived here.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock should spend less time and effort complaining about the federal government’s lack of response to the refugee crisis (even though they are right) and less time trying to pass the refugees off to other cities.
These refugees have arrived at our door after a long journey to escape the type of poverty that forces many in Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Guatemala to subsist off of what landfills can provide while also being subject to political and gang violence. Denver is sheltering about 1,800 refugees currently, and more are arriving every day.
Unless refugees have friends and family at a different location who can provide shelter, then cities, counties, and the state of Colorado need to step up and provide for these asylum seekers. We understand that some of these refugees are requesting bus tickets to other cities, and respecting their wishes is important, but the emphasis from Hancock and others has been to assure the public that Denver is not the final location for these individuals looking to start their lives in a new country with a new home.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, “The stark choice for thousands in Central America is to leave or risk death. They are compelled to flee their homes and risk their lives undertaking dangerous journeys, searching for a safe place to live. They often arrive only with the clothes they are wearing, traumatized and in need of urgent support.”
Hancock and the City of Denver employees, as well as those at non-profits and refugee resettlement agencies, have worked tirelessly to meet the immediate needs of those arriving in the city – providing food, shelter, and care around the clock with little support financially. We applaud their efforts.
However, New York City’s mayor, Erik Adams, revealed Tuesday on a radio show that Polis had notified officials in his office that Colorado would be sending refugees to other cities like New York City and Chicago. These individuals must be offered the choice to stay in Denver and receive shelter and food here.
As of Dec. 19, the New York Times reported that the city had already received about 32,000 refugees, of which about 21,000 remained in the city’s care in shelters and hotels at an estimated cost of $1 billion a year.
America, as a wealthy nation, should not resort to establishing refugee camps for these individuals to live in while they await their asylum cases to be processed and their work permits to be approved under our broken and arcane immigration laws. Instead, cities, counties, nonprofits and the federal government must step up to meet the need in more humane ways than impoverished nations do when there is a diaspora, and the only option is blue United Nations tents in a wired-off camp.
Colorado may not have been their intended destination, but we should make certain that these men, women and children feel blessed that they have landed here, with the rare exception for those with a specific destination in mind. It’s hard to imagine that life would be better in New York City for those with no ability to work legally and no money or possessions than it would be in Denver.
Funding for an international crisis should come from the federal government, but if members of Congress insist on keeping their heads in the sand while hundreds of thousands of people suffer, then rainy-day funds — both state and local — will have to be used to meet this need.