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Denver has activated an emergency shelter to accommodate the arrival of 100 migrants, the city said Wednesday in a news release.

The group arrived on a bus Monday night at a homeless shelter in the city, according to Mikayla Ortega, communications manager for the city’s Office of Emergency Management. The shelter reached capacity Tuesday, Ortega said, prompting the city to activate an emergency shelter at a city-owned recreation center to house the migrants.

The migrants are from Central and South America, including Venezuela. Most range in age from around 20 to 40 and two are children. They arrived at the rec center around 8 p.m. Tuesday. 

It is not yet clear where the bus came from, Ortega said.

Some migrants were fearful of cooperating with authorities, making it difficult to learn more about their journey.

“We’re trying very hard to build trust with them,” Ortega said, adding “it’s just not there yet” because officials’ first priority is to arrange shelter and medical care and provide for basic needs like showers. “So there’s just a lot of other variables involved beyond just figuring out where they came from.”

Denver is a so-called sanctuary city and county, meaning it doesn’t cooperate with federal immigration officials in attempts to deport residents living in the city without legal documentation.

In a written statement Wednesday, U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper suggested the arrival was part of “partisan games” over immigration — a reference to moves by governors in Texas, Florida and Arizona to transport migrants to Democrat-led states in recent months, on the grounds that they should share in the expense of caring for them and managing the costs of immigration.

“Human lives are not political props. Denver will welcome these migrants with open arms and help any way they can. We will be empathetic to people put in a difficult situation,” said Hickenlooper, who previously served as Denver’s mayor and Colorado governor. “Instead of playing partisan games, let’s tackle our broken immigration system once and for all.”

Representatives of the governor’s offices in Texas and Arizona said their offices weren’t involved in sending the migrants. A spokesperson for the Florida governor’s office did not immediately return requests for comment. 

Texas has transported nearly 14,000 migrants to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. since April, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a tweet Monday. Abbott has said the practice is intended to expose what he calls inaction by the Biden administration over high numbers of migrants crossing on the southern border.

Denver has been coordinating with local nonprofits for the past two to three months to prepare resources in the event of a surge of migrants. A different group of around 50 migrants arrived in Denver over the weekend. 

The city is considering activating its Emergency Operations Center, which gathers representatives from nearly every city department and agency.

Laura Lunn, director of advocacy and litigation at the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN), said it’s crucial the city provides the migrants with resources. 

“Everybody who’s arriving needs the orientation and needs information about how to proceed with the legal system, so that they can try and seek asylum,” Lunn said. “I would hope Denver remains a beacon of hope for people coming from fleeing violence and persecution.”

Denver’s Office of Emergency Management advised against bringing items to the Denver Rescue Mission or emergency shelter to help the migrants and said that it was only accepting monetary donations as of Wednesday afternoon.

Delaney Nelson is The Colorado Sun's 2022 Medill School of Journalism Fellow.