Updated Jun 4, 2024 - News

How Biden's border crackdown could impact Denver

A group of people are processed by Border Patrol after crossing the river illegally outside Eagle Pass, Texas, on Feb. 4. Photo: Sergio Flores/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden's new crackdown on illegal border crossings is eliciting mixed responses from local advocates and officials.

State of play: Some leaders say it could ease pressure on Denver, which has been bracing for another surge of arrivals as the weather warms.

  • Immigrant advocates argue, however, the order is inhumane and dangerous.

The big picture: More than 42,000 people from South and Central American countries have arrived in Colorado's capital city since December 2022 — more than any other U.S. city per capita, according to Mayor Mike Johnston — and city resources have been stretched thin addressing the crisis.

The latest: Biden's executive order, announced Tuesday, allows him to drastically limit the number of people entering the U.S. from the southern border.

  • Border officials will be able to rapidly turn back migrants — without giving them a chance at asylum — when illegal border crossings reach an average of 2,500 a day.
  • There have been an average of 3,700 illegal crossings a day over the last three weeks, according to internal stats obtained by Axios — so the order could go into effect immediately.

What they're saying: In a statement, Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said he "applauds" Biden for "stepping up to meaningfully address immigration challenges," but urged Congress once again to take further action to "reform our broken immigration system."

The other side: Opponents say the new rule imposes undue hardship on people and families fleeing violence and persecution.

  • "These restrictive measures will negatively impact human beings who are in desperate need of shelter and safety," Gladis Ibarra, co-executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said in a statement.
  • Biden's "devastating" move "signals a troubling revival of draconian, xenophobic policies that underscore the mainstreaming of anti-immigrant views," Lindsay Schubiner, program director at Western States Center, told Axios Denver in a statement.

By the numbers: A new report from the conservative-leaning Common Sense Institute estimates that metro-area cities, education and health care organizations have spent between $216 million and $340 million responding to the emergency.

Flashback: After hitting a peak of 5,200 newcomers in January, Denver rolled out a new immigration strategy in April, part of which included sending city officials to the U.S.-Mexico border to tell them the mayor's arms-wide-open approach had ended.

  • The city is now focusing on its "asylum-seeker program" to provide roughly 1,000 people a path to work and independence complete with six months of rent, food assistance and job support, while significantly limiting help for everyone else.

What's next: Denver officials will "closely monitor" any impacts the executive order has in the city and, in the meantime, "stay focused on what we are able to control, including our recent pivot away from emergency operations to a more sustainable programmatic approach," Denver Human Services spokesperson Jon Ewing tells us.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information throughout.

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