Hickenlooper offers support to Colorado resort communities following migrant relocation to Martha’s Vineyard

Colorado SuperChair is pictured on opening day Friday, Nov. 12, at Breckenridge Ski Resort. Following the transportation of migrants to Martha's Vineyard earlier in September, Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper reached out to Breckenridge Major Eric Mamula to offer aid in the event that migrants are transported to Colorado.
Spence Linard/Breckenridge Ski Resort

Martha’s Vineyard was recently the target of what some are calling a political stunt on immigration, and that has left some Colorado officials worried.

On Sept. 14, the popular resort island off the coast of Massachusetts unexpectedly received two planeloads of about 50 migrants. The migrants were sent by the Florida governor’s office from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard.

Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper reportedly warned Colorado mountain towns to prepare for the possibility that migrants could be relocated to Colorado, Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula said at the Summit Board of County Commissioners work session meeting Tuesday, Sept. 27.

“I just assumed it was a matter of time,” Commissioner Tamara Pogue said.

Mamula said migrants being sent to Colorado is possible because resorts such as Vail and Aspen are “high profile” areas, similar to Martha’s Vineyard.

“Following the Martha’s Vineyard migrant incident, Sen. Hickenlooper’s office reached out to a few towns in Colorado and offered support if a similar situation happened in the state,” a spokesperson from Hickenlooper’s office wrote in an email when reached for comment. “The office was proactively reaching out but does not have any information about an impending or possible relocation of migrants to Colorado.”

In the Martha’s Vineyard case, the Florida governor’s office reportedly flew the migrants there because the island falls under the category of a “sanctuary town,” according to New York Times reporting. The New York Times also called Martha’s Vineyard “a popular getaway for the moneyed and powerful.”

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, both Massachusetts and Colorado are sanctuary states. This means they have “laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions, policies, or other practices that obstruct immigration enforcement,” according to the Center for Immigration Studies webpage

Because of the similar resort character of some Colorado communities — as well as the Democratic-leaning political stance — Mamula said resort towns in Colorado are more likely to receive migrants. However, in the event that migrants are sent to Colorado, Mamula said Summit County is not as likely to be a target destination in comparison to places such as Aspen and Vail.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen here,” Mamula said. “In Aspen and Vail, maybe, some more high profile places, but — if it does — we need to react quickly like Martha’s Vineyard did so that we can do the right thing for these people.”

In the hypothetical situation where migrants are sent to Summit County, Pogue said the process of receiving migrants would look similar to emergency wildfire procedures used in the past. 

“We would use the same process we use in any situation where folks are displaced,” Pogue said. “So whether it is a wildfire, a blizzard or something like that, we have protocols in place around those incidents, and we would try to follow those same protocols.”

Both Pogue and fellow Commissioner Joshua Blanchard said Summit County’s local resources would be important to tap.  

Brianne Snow, the executive director of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, said she plans to prepare her staff in the near future. Snow said it’s important that staff be prepared to answer calls and meet whatever influx of needs comes.

“I think that the biggest worry that we have is our housing situation and our lack of resources when it comes to finding folks stable housing,” Snow said. “We know it’s a problem for the families that are already here, so certainly new families would struggle, as well.”

Snow and Summit County government spokesperson David Rossi also expressed concern about the drastic change in climate if migrants who come from southern regions arrive during this time of year.

“It’s a huge change for them and their families,” Snow said. Not only is the weather extreme, but the cold temperatures may also affect mental health as families who are not connected to the community may experience isolation, depression and anxiety, Snow added.

In that case, Snow said the family resource center and Building Hope Summit County, a nonprofit focused on accessible mental health resources, could collaborate to help.

“We have a real opportunity here to help folks,” Snow said.

Whether migrants are eventually at Summit County’s doorstep, Pogue said aspects of Summit County rely on migrant populations to thrive, so it’s important for the community to offer help.

“I do think Summit County is a unique and special community, and the way we do rally each other and come together in times of strain — whatever it is that we face — is one of the things I love the most about this community,” Pogue said.

Whenever there is a family in need, the most helpful resource the community can offer is volunteering or donating, Snow said. She said $20 can buy up to $200 worth of produce, dairy and meat for the resource center’s food markets.

“I think that when problems arise and emergencies come to fruition, we all do rally together to make sure that we’re doing the right thing for everyone in it,” Snow said. “So I’m really hopeful that that will be the situation if these folks end up here in our beautiful town.”

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