DENVER — Forty-one migrants arrived in Denver on Thursday on a chartered bus organized by Texas state officials, the city said.
Denver officials said this is the first time migrants have arrived on a bus coordinated by another state. Until now, all migrants who have arrived in Denver have taken commercial transportation.
A city spokesperson said the migrants came from McAllen, Texas. Of the 41 people on the bus, seven were children. Texas officials told the city that the migrants wanted to come to Denver.
Migrants who had just gotten off the bus told 9NEWS they are thankful for what turned out to be a free bus ride.
"I'm very grateful with [Gov. Abbott]," said Enyrebe, who arrived on the bus chartered from McAllen. "Thank you for the support to get us out of there, to come here."
Enyrebe said the bus ride didn't feel like a political game or stunt to him.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was there welcoming people as they got off the bus.
"This is a stunt by Gov. Abbot to create the appearance of a big influx, when in fact Biden's policies have so restricted access to asylum that numbers are way down," said Gabriela Flora with AFSC, referring to the newly-implemented policies announced since the expiration of Title 42.
Flora emphasized that non-profits at the border are currently meeting the need as a smaller number of people attempt to cross.
The city said arriving migrants are being welcomed at the city's Reception Center seven days a week. On Thursday morning, 98 migrants were processed through the center, the city said.
"The city is doing everything possible to ensure people are not unsheltered, especially given sudden changes in weather that often occur in Denver during the spring," the city said in a news release. "Currently there are five shelters housing nearly 1,200 people."
Abbott's office sent out a news release announcing the arrival of the migrants in Denver.
"Until the President and his Administration step up and fulfill their constitutional duty to secure the border, the State of Texas will continue busing migrants to self-declared sanctuary cities like Denver to provide much-needed relief to our small border towns," Abbott said in the release.
Earlier this month, Abbott said in a letter to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot that he would continue busing migrants to Democratic cities such as Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia.
"What is happening at the border, and what is showing up at the doorsteps of cities across the country, is a humanitarian crisis," Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "What none of us need is more political theater and partisan gamesmanship pitting jurisdictions against each other and exacerbating this situation instead of advocating for real solutions to this challenge. If Gov. Abbott thinks he’s going to win over allies to his cause here in Denver with this latest stunt, he’s going to be sorely mistaken. And we’re more than happy to send him the bill for any additional support we have to provide now because of his failure at managing his own state.”
There is no mechanism that would require the state of Texas to reimburse Denver.
Hancock’s spokesman said it was a reference to Texas getting more federal funding to help migrants.
The numbers are not in Denver’s favor.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided emergency food and shelter money for communities assisting migrants.
The city and county of Denver received $909,653.22. Colorado’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management received $248,823.34
Together, Denver and Colorado have received $1.1 million, while caring for 10,000 migrants. That is an average of $115 per arrival.
The New York City Office of Management and Budget received $30,553,252.17. That city has seen 61,000 migrants, which averages $500 per arrival.
The city of Chicago and the Illinois Department of Human Service received $4,301,387.13 each. That is a total of $8.6 million for a city that has seen 8,000 migrants. That averages out to $1,075 per arrival.
In total, Texas government and assistance agencies have received $128 million in federal aid.
A Colorado FEMA spokesman sent 9NEWS' Thursday afternoon question about the inequity to FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Since it was likely after hours by the time that request was forwarded, we have not received a response yet.
A spokesperson for the city said they are concerned buses will continue to arrive.
On Tuesday, the City of Denver told 9NEWS it has purchased 5,340 bus tickets for migrants who decided to leave Denver since December 2022 – with the vast majority heading to Chicago and New York.
The city does not have a breakdown of country of origin, but anecdotal accounts from city officials and immigration advocates indicate the vast majority of daily newcomers to Denver are Venezuelan, as people flee the country’s shattered economy.
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