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Mountain towns prepare in case Southern governors send migrants to mountains

County managers in Breckenridge, Vail and Aspen said they started preparing after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sent 50 migrants by plane to Martha's Vineyard.

PITKIN COUNTY, Colo. — Senator John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) reached out to leaders of Colorado's mountain resort towns this week to offer assistance if governors of Florida or Texas send a group of migrants to the Colorado mountains, his office confirmed Wednesday.

Leaders in Summit, Eagle and Pitkin counties said they have all started discussions of how to prepare if a group of migrants was to arrive unexpectedly in the resort towns of Breckenridge, Vail or Aspen. 

Earlier this month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) flew 50 migrants to Martha's Vineyard as part of a program to highlight immigration issues at the border. Hickenlooper's office said it does not have any information about an impending relocation of migrants to Colorado. 

"We would just focus on dealing with an emergency," said Summit County Communications Director David Rossi about the county's plans. "Likely an approach not too different from a wildfire where you have individuals and families who are displaced."

Rossi said the county will rely on community partners like the Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) in the event of a migrant relocation to Summit County. 

"I have all the faith in the world that if this were to happen, we could handle it," FIRC Executive Director Brianne Snow said. "We have a really great community that steps up in times of need."

She said finding places to house people won't be easy. "Shelter will be the biggest hurdle in trying to make sure that these folks are taken care of just because of our lack of housing inventory up here in the mountains," she said. 

Rossi said the altitude and weather could pose potential health issues for people sent to Colorado from border states. "Some people don't react well to the altitude up here and the weather can change," he said. Snow said her organization can help source gloves, coats and snow pants if migrants arrive in winter. 

In Pitkin County, home to Aspen ski resorts, county manager John Peacock said the local community would "seek to provide humanitarian aid" and said, "Aspen could make us a target." 

The director of emergency management in Eagle County, home to Vail, said he has discussed with the county's human services team how to respond if a similar incident occurred in their community. 

RELATED: Yes, Florida allocated $12 million to transport migrants out of the state

RELATED: Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard file lawsuit against DeSantis, Florida

"Ultimately, the immigration status of the individuals and the politically motivated nature of the incident would be irrelevant to our response," Birch Barron said in a statement. "If any group of people becomes suddenly displaced in our community, Eagle County coordinates with local public safety agencies and nonprofits to address the immediate health and safety needs."

Other local leaders cast doubt on the possibility of migrants in their area. Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula said he brought up Hickenlooper's offer to help the town in a county commission meeting "to make sure they knew there's a very, very slight chance this will occur." He said if it does "we will do the human thing." 

But Mamula said Hickenlooper's call was "just an FYI" and there's "zero going on" in terms of active preparation. 

"It’s really hard to plan for something if you don’t know if it’s going to happen," Snow acknowledged. Rossi said Summit County has not put any plan into motion at this time. 

"Is it an impending emergency? I don't think so," he said. "I believe it really is a matter of just being ready for things and we’re lucky up here in Summit County to have community partners who could jump into action."

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