Aug 23, 2023 - News

Denver sees another uptick in migrant arrivals

Photo illustration collage of the Denver County Courthouse next to migrants at a makeshift shelter in Denver, CO.

Photo illustration: Maura Losch/Axios; Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Migrants are arriving in Denver seeking help in large numbers again, city data shows.

Driving the news: Occupancy has been growing since late July, when around 500 people were being sheltered. As of Tuesday afternoon, that number had swelled to 818, according to city data.

  • At least 104 people arrived in Denver on Monday, and another 68 folks arrived on Tuesday.

Yes, but: The city's situation is "stable" and not at an emergency level, city spokesperson Adriana Lopez tells us via email.

Why it matters: The uptick is happening as city leaders have yet to solidify a plan for continuing to provide services to migrants.

  • It's been over a month since plans to contract migrant services out to a private company were scrapped over concerns about its reputation.

State of play: Mayor Mike Johnston is working with city agencies and community leaders to draft a new request for proposals that allows local organizations to bid on specific services, rather than overseeing all aid, his spokesperson Jordan Fuja tells us.

  • Those services could include shelter, meals, transportation and donations management.
  • The revised process is aimed at making it easier for organizations to bid on services, knowing they wouldn't be responsible for all care, Fuja says.

Threat level: Former Mayor Michael Hancock made it clear that the city could not continue paying for services from its own coffers.

Zoom in: In May, Hancock joined Gov. Jared Polis in demanding money from the federal government.

  • But that hasn't materialized — Denver has spent more than $23 million to provide services to over 15,000 migrants who began arriving in large numbers in December, yet has only received $909,000 from the federal government.

Of note: Denver is eligible to receive $8.6 million in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to the city.

The intrigue: It's unclear what's drawing the most recent increase in arrivals.

Between the lines: Many migrants arriving in Denver don't intend to make the city their final destination. Instead, they use Denver as a hub to go elsewhere, including Chicago, which has been facing its own migrant crisis in the past year.

  • The Chicago Tribune reported that Denver has bought about 6,400 migrants bus and Amtrak tickets at a cost of more than $2.3 million. Nearly a third of migrants getting those tickets are traveling to the midwest city.

What they're saying: Individual tickets are purchased based on destination requests directly from migrants, Denver Human Services spokesperson Victoria Aguilar said in a statement last week.

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