DENVER (KDVR) — Since May, more than 6,000 migrants have been bused to Denver from Texas, according to numbers from Gov. Greg Abbott.
Many of those migrants are winding up in encampments and searching for work. Some of these people could be unhoused and without “legal” work for many months, according to Belen Albuja, an immigration attorney in Denver.
That could lead to some finding work off the books, which could lead to outright violations of labor laws by employers, Albuja said.
“I live between the two worlds as an immigrant and as an attorney,” Albuja said.
Migrants have the task of getting a work permit
Albuja has been an immigration attorney for 12 years. She is also a native of Ecuador.
“Put together some forms, translate birth certificates,” Albuja said, “evidence to confirm that they belong to this group.”
That’s the start of the process for migrants, like those arriving in Denver daily, to get a work permit so they can legally earn an income in the United States. They will need some money to even start the process with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Around $500 or more for the application,” Albuja said.
After a few weeks to a month, those migrants, still legally off the books, would then get another appointment.
“We’ll go have the fingerprints to make sure that they don’t have a criminal record,” Albuja said.
The process is far from over after that. They would need to wait until they get documents confirming their application for a work permit.
“It usually may take between four months to six months or even more,” Albuja said.
But that’s only if the entire process doesn’t require any more vetting, which Albuja said is almost a guarantee it will.
Once they have proper documentation, Albuja said they can receive a social security number then apply for a state identification card, paving the way for them to apply for work.
Migrant workers vulnerable to labor law violations
“What people are doing is surviving,” Albuja said.
Surviving by getting odd jobs and working off the books, which Albuja said could leave them vulnerable to labor law violations.
“There’s people with good intentions and there’s people with a lot of ignorance and others that are abusing the system to give the immigrants a lower pay,” Albuja said.
Albuja said she was invited to a workshop by a professor at the University of Denver. The workshop intends to provide free legal services to migrants from Venezuela to begin the process of getting a legal work permit.
FOX31 will share more details about that workshop as they become available.