A Denver shopping center
Denver's Democratic Mayor, Mike Johnston, launched a controversial Asylum Seekers Program in April. Unsplash.com/Benigno Hoyuela

A group of asylum seekers in Denver, Colorado, rejected this week a call to vacate their camping site and move into shelters, presenting instead a list of 13 demands they insist the city must meet before they do so.

The group of migrants say they will not budge until their comprehensive list, which includes access to a free immigration attorney and fresh cooking ingredients, is addressed in their ongoing negotiations with Denver's Human Services Department, according to Fox 31.

The migrants, who include families living under a bridge near Denver International Airport and next to railroad tracks, issued their demands in response to Democratic Mayor Mike Johnston's proposal to relocate the group.

Last month, Johnston launched the Asylum Seekers Program, which houses new migrants in city-funded shelters in Denver; the migrants receive rent and food assistance for six months and free legal services for their asylum claims while they wait for their work permits to be approved under the program.

However, the group also asked to be allowed to cook their meals with "fresh, culturally appropriate ingredients" provided by the city instead of pre-prepared meals. They specifically asked for rice, chicken, flour, oil, butter, tomatoes and onions.

V. Reeves, spokesperson for Housekeys Action Network Denver, told Fox 31 that the request follows "numerous complaints regarding spoiled or insufficient food, as well as cases of malnutrition among children."

The document also refers to hygienic conditions, including access to showers that are "available without time limits" and can be used whenever the migrants need them. "We are not in the military, we are civilians," they wrote.

Among the most pressing issues, they asked that families not be separated and that all shelter residents be linked to employment assistance, including work permit applications for those who qualify.

This is the complete list of demands:

  1. Migrants will cook their own food with fresh, culturally appropriate ingredients provided by the City instead of premade meals — rice, chicken, flour, oil, butter, tomatoes, onions, etc. ... Also people will not be punished for bringing in & eating outside food.
  2. Shower access will be available without time limits & can be accessed whenever — we are not in the military, we're civilians.
  3. Medical professional visits will happen regularly & referrals/connections for specialty care will be made as needed.
  4. All will receive the same housing support that has been offered to others. They cannot kick people out in 30 days without something stable established.
  5. There needs to be a clear, just process before exiting someone for any reason — including verbal, written & final warnings.
  6. All shelter residents will receive connection to employment support, including work permit applications for those who qualify.
  7. Consultations for each person/family with a free immigration lawyer must be arranged to discuss/progress their cases, & then the City will provide on-going legal support in the form of immigration document clinics & including transportation to relevant court dates.
  8. The City will provide privacy for families/individuals within the shelter.
  9. No more verbal or physical or mental abuse will be permitted from the staff, including no sheriff sleeping inside & monitoring 24/7 — we are not criminals & won't be treated as such.
  10. Transportation for all children to & from their schools will be provided until they finish in 3 weeks.
  11. No separating families, regardless of if family members have children or not. The camp will stay together.
  12. The City must schedule a meeting with the Mayor & those directly involved in running the Newcomer program ASAP to discuss further improvements & ways to support migrants.
  13. The City must provide all residents with a document signed by a City official in English & Spanish with all of these demands that includes a number to call to report mistreatment.

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