Jul 7, 2023 - News

The future of migrant arrivals in Denver will be decided by new mayor Mike Johnston

Venezuelan migrants wait in line at a food truck outside a migrant processing center last month in Denver. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Challenges are beginning to pile up for Denver's next mayor — and he hasn't even stepped into office yet.

What's happening: Mayor-elect Mike Johnston, who will be sworn in July 17, will be pressed to take urgent action after the current administration said Thursday it would not pursue a $40 million contract with a private company to oversee the city's migrant responses.

  • The proposed contract with Virginia-based GardaWorld Federal Services was set to be voted on by the Denver City Council next week.
  • However, concerns about the company's reputation were brought forth by council members and local migrant advocates over claims that the company bid on a contract from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration to fly migrants to other states, Denverite reports.

Why it matters: The decision means Johnston will need to find a way to continue providing services for migrants, who have cost the city $20 million since December.

What they're saying: "Denver has always been a city that cares for immigrants, refugees, and new arrivals, and I'm committed to continuing that work and addressing the migrant crisis starting on day one," Johnston told Axios Denver in a statement.

  • "We know that this is a critical and complicated issue, which is why we specifically created a standalone transition committee on Migrants and Immigration that is working with community leaders to collect feedback on how our administration can best care for and serve migrants," he added.

Catch up quick: Migrants began arriving unexpectedly and in large numbers in December. Since then, the city has paid for services from its own coffers.

  • Officials this spring said they would switch to using the city's contingency fund, though they stressed this was a temporary solution. It led the city to explore a more permanent solution and proposed hiring a private company.

By the numbers: The city has provided services like shelter and bus tickets to more than 12,700 people since December.

  • Just over 500 of them are currently living in the city.

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