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Denver mayor warns of service cuts if federal government doesn’t step up its response to migrant crisis

“Denver cannot continue to financially shoulder this burden alone,” Mayor Michael Hancock said in energetic plea to federal and Congressional leaders
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Posted at 6:00 PM, May 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-15 16:05:21-04

DENVER – Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday warned cuts to city services could be coming if leaders in Washington fail to respond to the influx of migrants coming from Central and South America, a crisis sure to be exacerbated with the end of Title 42, a policy which prevented people who are seeking asylum from coming to the U.S.

“I’m going to cut to the chase and be very clear: We're in desperate need of emergency shelter space to accommodate what will be coming our way,” Hancock said during a news conference a day after announcing the city had activated its Emergency Operations Center for the second time in nearly five months.

After a lull in arrivals between March and April, Hancock said a “significant influx of migrants” began arriving over the past week. Four hundred of them had arrived in Denver on Tuesday alone, he said, which “eclipses anything we experienced in December and January, by far.”

“With the upwards of 150,000 migrants reported as being at the border right now and with Title 42 expiring tonight, we anticipate these numbers are only going to increase,” he said.

Here's how you can help refugees and immigrants coming to Denver

Mayor Hancock once again called on churches and nonprofits to help by providing emergency shelter space, and called on people who would like to volunteer their time to reach out. The mayor also asked for funding to cover the cost of staffing, food, supplies, and transportation, saying monetary donations to the Newcomers Fund were currently the best way to support the city. Anyone willing to help can go to the OEM’s website and was encouraged to follow the OEM on social media for the latest updates.

By Friday, the OEM said a drop-off site would be activated at the Denver Dream Center, located at 2165 Curtis St., which would serve as the primary donation site effective Wednesday, May 17.

If you'd like to donate, here's what the OEM is asking you to bring in a sealed plastic bag:

  • Hygiene product kits: Soap, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, menstrual hygiene products (preferably in bulk)
  • Diapers (sizes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6)
  • Baby wipes (preferably in bulk)
  • Men's and women's small size underwear (new and unopened only)
Colorado nonprofits work to make sure migrants have access to necessary resources


Colo. nonprofits work to make sure migrants have access to necessary resources

Colette Bordelon
7:24 PM, May 11, 2023

"Congress needs to stop playing politics and pass legislation to fix these challenges"

Hancock decried the federal government’s inaction against this crisis, blaming Congress for playing politics and for “kicking the can down the road” as the city remains stuck in a cycle of emergencies.

“If it’s only us and a handful of local nonprofits doing anything about it, that support is going to become insufficient very quickly, so we’re sending out the distress signal: We need our federal and congressional leaders to hear it and to respond,” Hancock said, as he called on the Biden administration to provide funding and logistical support to manage the crisis.

At the news conference Thursday, Hancock revealed that out of the $16 million the city has already spent to support migrants coming to Denver, only $909,000 has been reimbursed by the federal government.

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Margaret Danuser, the city’s chief financial officer, said the administration had already gone to City Council to request $11 million in contingency funds and had applied for federal grants from both FEMA as well as the state of Colorado through their ARPA funds and the state’s department of local affairs.

But Mayor Hancock warned their resources can only go so far and their reserves are not bottomless.

“Denver cannot continue to financially shoulder this burden alone,” he said. “If this situation extends for a prolonged period of time, some hard choices are going to have to be made.”

Those hard choices would come in the form of service cuts, the mayor warned, but he did not elaborate further, only saying those conversations were just beginning.

“Denver residents shouldn't lose the services and resources they depend on and pay for with their tax dollars because Congress and the federal government are failing to do their jobs,” the mayor said.

Hancock also condemned bad actors of trying to politicize the situation with “cynical criticism that somehow Denver brought this on ourselves because we have a policy of welcoming immigrants and we don't use our law enforcement personnel to enforce federal immigration laws.”

“Denver's reputation as a welcoming and humane community is not the reason we have a hemispheric migration crisis,” the mayor said. “This is a politically charged question, it is divisive and would have absolutely no bearing on what we are seeing at the border – and certainly wouldn't have any bearing on people coming to our city seeking to pass through our fine opportunity here in the United States of America.”

Denver mayor warns of services cuts if federal government doesn’t step up its response to migrant crisis

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Matt Mueller, the executive director of the Office of Emergency Management, said even though the city has set up a reception center for incoming migrants at a city facility, that location will be temporary as it is not optimal for the situation. He said they are looking for longer-term options as “we don’t anticipate this is going to subside anytime soon.”

Mueller told reporters the OEM was working hard to minimize disruption to city services and asked that the community “step up in a lot of ways” as the city was getting between 300 to 400 migrants coming each day, with more than 1,000 people already in shelters across the city.

He said the OEM was working with a couple of the city’s community partners to stand up physical donations that will be announced at a later date.

“For five months now, the city of Denver has received and cared for a little less than 10,000 migrants,” Hancock said. “Sixteen million dollars - almost $16 million - expended by the city of Denver. We are seeing or have cared for 400 to 2,000 people per night to our cities. This is, without question, a humanitarian crisis.”

Though he warned that a lot of aspects in the city would take “a significant hit” if Denver doesn’t find support from outside agencies to help, Hancock vowed to “never stop working to serve those who are experiencing homelessness in our city… but we have arrived at a point where our resources are stressed.”

“We are in a state of emergency, we’re in a state of crisis as well,” Hancock said in closing remarks. “I don't know what perfection looks like in a humanitarian crisis, but we're trying to respond in the most compassionate and humane way we possibly can.”

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