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Denver Announces First Round of Service Reductions to Pay for Migrant Support

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston is joined by City Council member Jamie Torres during a press conference on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. facebook.com
Denver Mayor Mike Johnston is joined by City Council member Jamie Torres during a press conference on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. facebook.com

By: Joe Mueller | The Center Square

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston announced cuts to some city services to pay for migrant support and blamed Congress for exacerbating the situation by not passing an immigration bill.

Johnston announced changes to reduce costs at Denver Motor Vehicle offices and the Department of Parks and Recreation during a press conference on Friday. The reductions will save $5 million and Johnston said more cuts will be necessary.

In early January, Johnston alerted the City Council the number of migrants arriving in need of services would cost the city approximately $180 million this year. The city pulled $10 million from a contingency fund and $15 million from a remodeling fund, according to information from Johnston’s office.

“I'm here to talk about the devastating impact of the failure of Republican leadership in Congress this week to pass comprehensive immigration changes and the impact that will have on both city budgets and on services that we can provide for newcomers in the city,” Johnston said to open the press conference.

Johnston said Denver officials worked with congressional leaders from both parties, the White House, and several federal agencies to push for action. Denver has supported 38,380 migrants at a cost of more than $42 million during the last few months, according to Johnston's office.

“Despite broad bipartisan support, I think [former President Donald] Trump and Republican leaders saw this as a chance that, if this bill actually passed, it would have successfully solved the problem facing cities on the border,” Johnston said. “They would have rather seen it fail so they could exacerbate these problems, extend the suffering of American people and of newcomers for their own electoral chances in this November.”

As part of the reductions, the Denver Motor Vehicle offices will no longer take vehicle registration renewals in person and drivers must complete registrations by mail, online or at kiosks. Five locations will have rotating weekly closures.

Spring recreation programming will be reduced by 25%. Recreation centers will go from operating seven days per week to six and neighborhood centers will be reduce hours of operation.

The city also plans to make changes to migrant services provided and decrease the number of newcomers served.

“This was solvable with bipartisan support and we would not be facing these challenges,” Johnston said. “I want to be clear to Denverites: Who is not responsible for this crisis we’re in? The folks who have walked 3,000 miles to get to this city.”

In addition to getting more federal financial assistance, Johnston said the federal government allowing work authorization permits to migrants would dramatically help the problem.

“They have asked for nothing but the ability to work and support themselves,” Johnston said. “And employers across the city have asked for nothing but the chance to hire them. And the federal government this week said those folks who want to work in this country cannot be employed by people in this country who want to hire them. That is the crisis.”

Related Story: Denver to Spend $180M on Migrants in 2024, Mayor Calls it ‘Unsustainable’

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