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January 30, 2023

Colorado ends short-lived program to bus migrants to Chicago and NYC

Colorado ends short-lived program to bus migrants to Chicago and NYC

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis said Colorado will no longer bus asylum-seekers to New York City and Chicago after the mayors of both cities demanded a halt to the policy.

Polis sent an unspecified number of migrants to both cities and other locations in Colorado last week because, he said, they were just passing through on their way to those destinations, and Denver city officials were overwhelmed by the 3,900 migrants who had already arrived in the past month.

It has already cost Denver more than $2.5 million to shelter and feed the migrants seeking asylum from violence, hunger and unemployment in their home countries, city officials said.

“The majority of migrants have a final destination other than Denver,” Polis’ office said in a statement last week. He declined to comment Monday, and his office would not say how many migrants had been sent away by bus.

While reversing his decision, Polis also set aside $5 million in state money to help provide assistance to the migrants, Denver officials said Monday.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and New York Mayor Eric Adams said they are dealing with the same issues as Denver, and they had warned Polis before the busing began that they could not handle any more asylum-seekers.

A migrant looks through donated clothes Friday at a makeshift shelter in Denver. Thomas Peipert / AP

“Although we share the concerns of accommodating the flood of asylum seekers, overburdening other cities is not the solution,” Lightfoot and Adams wrote last week in a letter to Polis, according to NBC Chicago. “We respectfully demand that you cease and desist sending migrants to New York City and Chicago.”

Polis’ office said the migrants who arrived in Denver were unable to leave for their final destinations because of bad weather that prompted transportation services to be canceled.

New York City has already taken in more than 38,000 migrants in the last nine months, Adams’ office said Monday. Chicago has absorbed 3,800 migrants from Texas since August, NBC Chicago reported. Lightfoot did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Polis’ office said Saturday that no more buses were scheduled to go to Chicago, and the last one carrying migrants to New York City was scheduled to arrive Sunday.

By Sunday afternoon, nearly 600 migrants were housed in Denver shelters and another 600 were in partner emergency shelters, city officials said. About 50 migrants arrived in Denver Saturday night, but the number arriving in the city on a daily basis has cooled in the past week, they said. They expect another surge at some point.

Already, two recreation centers and two motels have been converted to temporary shelters and a third recreation center into a welcome center for migrants.

The governor’s office has said Colorado coordinated with emergency management teams in New York and Illinois and local immigrant service organizations to help make a smooth transition for asylum-seekers who wanted to live elsewhere.

“People fleeing violence and oppression in search of a better life for themselves and their families deserve our respect not political games and we are grateful we have been able to assist migrants to reach their final destination,” Polis said in a statement last week.

Many of the migrants who arrived in Denver had traveled from Venezuela.

Deon J. Hampton

Deon J. Hampton is a national reporter for NBC News.

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