Mar 21, 2024 - News

Denver sees immigrant lull but prepares for a spring surge

New immigrants staying at an undisclosed hotel in Denver on Dec. 19, 2023. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The number of immigrants in Denver shelters fell below 1,000 this week for the first time in six months, city officials tell us — but if migration patterns hold true, another surge is on the way.

The latest: Denver leaders are working on a plan to deal with the impact of the next influx, as they continue to consolidate immigrant shelter spaces.

  • The third of four shelters the city plans to close went offline Wednesday.

What they're saying: "Migration ticks up generally in late spring, and then once it gets extremely hot, it ticks down for the peak of summer," Sarah Plastino, Denver's recently hired newcomer program director, told us during a media Q&A Wednesday.

  • "Once it cools off a bit, it ticks back up in early fall and then dips down around the holidays as people want to spend time with their families."

State of play: Despite the recent slowdown, struggles to support these new arrivals persist.

  • English development teachers across the state report feeling overwhelmed with the demand from students who need help learning the language, Chalkbeat reports.
  • Hospital systems including Denver Health and University of Colorado Hospital are under immense financial stress providing millions of dollars in uncompensated care to new immigrants.

By the numbers: As of Monday, the city has spent more than $61 million supporting newcomers from Central and South America, including on lodging, meals, transportation and support staff.

  • Denver still faces a $120 million budget deficit after consolidating its immigrant shelters and reducing city services.

What's next: Mayor Mike Johnston's administration is finalizing a plan for more budget cuts and will present the proposal to city council in April, according to Plastino.

  • "Nobody wants large cuts that cause pain. Nobody wants to see layoffs. Nobody wants to see furloughs," she said.
  • The administration has been "working very hard to figure out where we can reduce in a way that doesn't impact our communities in really severe ways and balance that with the emergency that we are faced with newcomers."
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