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Colorado busing migrants to New York and Chicago as Denver looks for more shelter space

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Kevin J Beaty
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A small busload of people arrive at an emergency shelter for migrants from the southern U.S. border set up at a Denver recreation center on Dec. 13, 2022.

Colorado is launching new initiatives to house and transport hundreds of migrants that are continuing to arrive in Denver.

The state this week started paying to charter buses to take migrants to New York and Chicago.

Micki Trost, a spokesperson for Colorado's office of emergency management, said Thursday the departures are happening daily and officials are "working with liaisons in the arrival cities as migrants travel to their destinations of choice."

The state did not answer questions about how many migrants are being bused out of Colorado each day.

Earlier this week, Gov. Jared Polis said about 70% of the migrants "don't have Denver as a final destination."

“No one should play politics with the lives of migrants who came here to escape oppression, and in Colorado, we are honoring our values of treating people with dignity and respect," he said.

But his decision to charter buses full of migrants to other states continues to draw some fire even from some fellow Democrats.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said it was "unfair" for other governors to send migrants to his city when it was already lacking resources to handle the arrivals.

"This is unacceptable what's happening, and we opened close to sixty something emergency shelters," Adams told reporters at a press conference. "And we're not only having to make sure they have a place to sleep, which we're doing, but we're also having to overcrowd our schools, feed, clothe, healthcare and we're not receiving money from anyone."

Polis is defending his busing effort. He told the Colorado Sun this week that his program is different from previous GOP busing efforts because he is not forcing migrants to leave or taking them places they did not originally want to go.

More than 3,700 migrants have arrived in Denver since Dec. 9, according to the city of Denver.

The city says it is currently housing more than eight hundred migrants in emergency shelters.

And officials are looking for more space.

Officials toured a defunct Catholic nursing home in northwest Denver on Monday to see if it could eventually house migrants.

"The discussions with the Denver Archdiocese have gone well and are continuing," Jill Lis, a spokesperson for the city, said after the tour.

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Scott Franz is an Investigative Reporter with KUNC.