Feb 16, 2024 - News

Why Denver is largely on its own handling the migrant crisis

A woman sits at a computer with a dozen migrants standing and sitting behind her.

A volunteer helps Venezuelans begin the work permitting process at a local hotel in Denver on Feb. 5. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

As Denver's deepening migrant crisis seeps outside of the city's boundaries, local leaders in nearby suburbs and beyond are making it clear they can't be counted on for support.

Why it matters: Denver needs all the help it can get amid a lack of federal resources and a growing budget deficit.

State of play: More than 40,000 migrants have arrived in Denver over the last year, more than any other U.S. city per capita, according to Mayor Mike Johnston. And cities across Colorado are sidestepping the issue, leaving Denver high and dry.

  • Amid an influx of new arrivals, council members in Aurora have pushed forward a resolution that would prevent groups from transporting migrants to the city and stress that providing sanctuary or support is "impossible."
  • The move follows Colorado Springs' city council passing a similar statement that declared itself a non-sanctuary city and pledged not to spend taxpayer dollars on the crisis — a stance supported by Mayor Yemi Mobolade, a Nigerian immigrant.

Meanwhile, officials in Lakewood and as far west as Grand Junction are repeatedly pushing back on rumors that their cities would house migrants.

Context: The sudden scramble from other cities to solidify their positions on the crisis comes as Johnston stated he would "begin to decrease the number of newcomers served," and has resumed forcing migrant families out of city shelters who have reached the 42-day mark.

The other side: Not all communities are turning their backs.

  • City leaders in Fort Collins, for example, recently infused $500,000 more into the Immigrant Legal Fund to help process asylum claims and secure work permits.
  • "This has to be a shared responsibility to help our immigrant communities among as many communities as possible," Leo Escalante with the Fort Collins Neighborhood Services Department told the Denver Post.

What's next: Although the number of migrants arriving in Denver has dipped recently, the city is still projected to expel nearly 4,000 people from city shelters by the end of March, the Denver Post reports.

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