DENVER — Since late 2022, Denver has cared for more than 18,000 migrants. While the city does not ask migrants their country of origin, it is believed the vast majority of people coming to Colorado from the southern border are from Venezuela.
The Biden administration announced Wednesday it was granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who arrived to the U.S. before July 31. Under the status, nearly 500,000 people would be able to apply for work permits.
“It gives you hope for the future,” said Marielena Suarez, executive director of Papagayo. “Even though this is not permanent, it is a good start.”
Suarez, who’s nonprofit organization has been assisting migrants in Denver for the past 10 months, said those families that came after July 31 are still left in limbo.
“This is just the beginning. We have a lot work to do,” said Suarez.
Biden admin grants protection to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans
Rebecca Santana and Elliot Spagat, Associated Press
6:45 PM, Sep 20, 2023
Rosana Villasmil fled her home country of Venezuela in late July.
“Unfortunately in Venezuela, there’s a lot of mafia and persecution. If you’re not with them, you’re against them. And because we got into trouble with the mafia, we had to run away,” Villasmil said through a translator.
Villasmil explained that her home was shot at on the morning of July 28. Her two young daughters were inside at the time. By noon that day, she said her family was ready to leave the home.
The family overcame unimaginable challenges as they fled to America, including going through the Darien Gap.
“When you get to the jungle, you know when you’re going there, but you don’t know if you’re going to be able to make it out of there alive,” Villasmil remembered.
Villasmil said her family plans on settling in Colorado. They picked the state because her young daughters want to see snow, and she heard there were job opportunities in the area. She did not arrive in America before July 31, and is not eligible for the TPS work permit application.
“We’re worried because at this point, we don’t know how long it’s going to take in order for us to get a work permit,” Villasmil said.
Villasmil plans on applying for asylum, but Suarez said that process can sometimes take years.
“If we want to help them out, we need to help them to be independent from the system,” Suarez said. “They deserve the opportunity.”
Suarez said Papagayo will work on educating migrants about their option to apply for a work permit, including what documents they need for the process. She said the permits are a momentary solution, not a permanent solution.
Governor Jared Polis on Wednesday posted a statement of support for the work permits on social media.
I am thrilled the Biden administration and Secretary Mayorkas are granting temporary protected status for Venezuelan migrants fleeing violence and oppression in search of a better life in America and who can now help contribute to our economy and fill much-needed jobs. pic.twitter.com/4rrw7JHM7j
The Newcomers Fund was launched at the end of last year as a safe place to send monetary donations for migrants. To date, it has raised just short of $800,000. Until now, that money was directed to needs like housing and food, but with this announcement from the federal government, money can be sent to organizations helping migrants find work.
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