DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Police Department and city crews swept an encampment of migrants Wednesday near downtown Denver.

Several people had been staying in tents near a migrant shelter at a hotel near Speer Boulevard and Zuni Street. Many of them told FOX31 they had nowhere to go. Still, the mayor said they would have to leave the public park space next to a sidewalk.

The sweep started Wednesday just before noon, with park rangers carrying plastic bags for the migrants’ items. Then Denver Police officers arrived and told them they would have to clear their tents from the area.

“This will be difficult,” migrant Eller Rengifo said.

This 21-year-old said he was told there would be shelter, but there were none he could go to.

Homeless advocates unsuccessfully tried to stop the sweep.

“And when I ask where they are supposed to move, they don’t know,” Friends of South Denver homeless advocate Amy Beck said.

Tents lined up under trees with Denver skyline in the background
A homeless encampment of migrants in Denver was cleared on Nov. 1, 2023. (KDVR)

Mayor: No camping in public park

Mayor Mike Johnston’s office said in a statement that camping was not allowed in the public park space. The mayor’s office also wrote there were concerns over open fires and health issues.

“They (crews) got here yesterday,” migrant Jecniy Huerta said.

Huerta said she was just told Tuesday night that she would have to leave Wednesday.

Jeremy Cherinos, a migrant from Venezuela at the camp, said cold weather is a real problem.

“We are not accustomed to the cold,” Cherinos said.

Not long after the sweep began, some of the migrants carried their “home” down the street. They set up a new encampment, none of them sure how long they’ll be able to stay in their new spot.

“The constant sweep of these encampments is not a solution. I am not sure what they are trying to accomplish or what their agenda is in doing that, especially in cold weather conditions,” community advocate Christy Velez said.

Denver mayor advocating in Washington

On Wednesday, a city spokesperson said while there may be space in migrant shelters, there may not be enough staff to run them. That’s one of the reasons, FOX31 was told, that the mayor was on his way to Washington, where he will ask for more federal dollars to deal with the growing migrant crisis in Denver.

FOX31 was told one of his efforts will be to help migrants work in Denver legally. Johnston is leading a coalition of mayors seeking support for the migrant crisis.

“It is imperative that we help those seeking refuge, not only by providing asylum and a place to be but also by expediting work authorizations and coordinating with cities across the country,” Johnston’s statement said.