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Local Motion: Migrant workers are moving to the Western Slope

Fresh green salad in soil top view photo, public domain vegetables CC0 image.
Fresh green salad in soil top view photo, public domain vegetables CC0 image.

This week on Local Motion, we take a look at migrants moving to Colorado and the Mountain West. One migrant describes his financial hardship in Venezuela, his perseverance as he walked to the U.S., and the community he has found in Carbondale. Finally, we hear from a local advocacy group that works with migrant workers, and a couple of workers in our region.

Governor Jared Polis and governors from eight other states are calling on the federal government to address the ongoing influx of migrants from the US-Mexico border. They sent a letter to Congress and the Biden administration this week, urging them to QUOTE “put political differences aside” and get to work on comprehensive immigration reform.

They’re also asking for more funding for cities and states.

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to make his case. He’s leading a coalition of mayors from across the country calling for federal action on the migrant crisis.

Starting in the summer of 2022, Texas Governor Greg Abbot began sending buses full of migrants to Democratic-led cities, including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Denver.

Since then, nearly 30,000 migrants have shown up in buses around Denver.

Many are children and single parents. Some made the trip alone, others with family members. Former Denver Mayor Michael Hancock declared a state of emergency last year, calling on local governments to unite and provide resources for the migrants.

So far, Denver has spent more than $35 million on facilities, personnel and other resources. Even so, thousands remain unhoused, living in encampments around Denver.

For Rocky Mountain Community Radio, KGNU's Ivonne Olivas visited one of the camps last month and has this story.

From Denver, some migrants are now making their way to the Mountain West in search of employment, this has created some issues for mountain communities whose infrastructure has been overloaded.

Over a hundred migrants, mostly from Venezuela, have arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley over recent months, seeking opportunity. Many arrived from Denver, where work was scarce and shelter space was limited.

A number of those newcomers have elected to represent the group, including Edwin Jimenez.

Jimenez spoke with Aspen Public Radio reporters Halle Zander and Eleanor Bennett about his financial hardship in Venezuela, his perseverance as he walked to the U.S., and the community he has found in Carbondale.

They bring us this audio postcard. That story was produced with help from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps. It’s supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

The Western Colorado Migrant and Rural Coalition, based in Montrose, has been working with migrants in our community, advocating for equitable access to community-based resources for rural, migrant and seasonal farm workers, and their families.

Reporter Cassie Knust spoke with Angeles Mendez, the president of the organization, as well as Angel Gomez and Juan Ramirez, who work as pickers in our region.

Cassie spoke with Angel Gomez through an interpreter. The conversation was edited for clarity and then re-recorded in English by Guillermo Mosqueda. To learn more about the Western Colorado Migrant and Rural Coalition, visit their Facebook page.

Cassie moved to Montrose from Texas in April 2020, right before COVID changed the landscape of the world as we knew it. She brought her love of people and a degree in broadcast journalism to the Western Slope, where she built a strong foundation in local print news. She’s excited to join the KVNF family and grow as a reporter. For Cassie, her job as a journalist is to empower the community through knowledge and information. When she’s not researching and reporting, Cassie loves to spend time with her cat, Jasper, and paint something new.<br/><br/>