Amid migrant increase, newcomers and Coloradans adapt

Miniature toy soccer players pose in a cluster in the living room, limbs frozen midstride. Like her son’s figurines, Gabriela feels stuck, too.

The Venezuelan asylum-seeker and her teenage son have made it this far, to a one-bedroom apartment in Denver. But the journey to bring him here, to seek critical medical care, meant leaving two other children behind. 

As a lesbian, Gabriela is also fleeing harassment; she says her brother was killed for trying to defend her. Yet a sense of security still eludes her here. Without family or many friends in Denver, and no permission to work legally, she’s behind two months of rent. 

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Record crossings at the southern border are increasingly affecting northern cities. In Denver, the needs of new migrants test the ability of public and private sectors to respond.

Gabriela, who arrived in July, says she expected life in the United States to be tough. “But I didn’t know the magnitude of how difficult it was going to be,” she says in Spanish. 

As record-high migration along the U.S.-Mexico border continues to make news, so do cities receiving migrants to the north, like Denver, overwhelmed by a crisis of logistics over the past year. Migrants, too, are often overwhelmed. After the ordeal of crossing America’s southern border, declared by the United Nations as the deadliest land migration route in the world, their precarious journeys endure on the other side.

Whether U.S. border authorities should be releasing migrants who entered unlawfully, ahead of far-off court dates, is under fierce debate. Once migrants arrive, however, their basic needs are testing the benevolence and bandwidth of local governments, nonprofits, and strangers. Amid the challenges, stakeholders are taking steps toward trying to stabilize the situation, raising the question of what sustainable support could look like in an era of record displacement globally.

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