Mayor of Denver Blames GOP and Trump for $5 Million Cuts to Pay for Migrant Crisis

Denver is cutting public services used by its residents to pay for its spiraling costs for illegal immigrants by $5 million, with the city’s mayor placing the blame on the GOP and former President Donald Trump.

Democrat Mayor Mike Johnston announced Friday that the planting of spring flower beds will be discontinued, hours will be cut at recreation centers, and in-person vehicle registration renewals at the DMV will end. 

The cutbacks follow the decision by the mayor last month to divert $25 million from the city’s budget to the migrant crisis. The plan includes removing $10 million from a contingency fund and $15 million from a building remodel.

The actions followed the decision by the city to review expanded or new programs and contracts and hold many vacant positions. 

Johnston says the crisis will cost Denver about $180 million in 2024.

“The choice by Republicans in Congress to purposefully kill a historic, bipartisan border deal this week will have a devastating impact in Denver,” said Johnston after the GOP blocked a bipartisan border deal, including aid packages for Israel and Ukraine, from advancing on Wednesday.

“I’m incredibly proud of how city team members have stepped up over the past year, but it is clear that the federal government is not going to support our city,” said Johnston at a Friday press conference.

Along with these departmental budget cuts, Denver will continue monitoring spending and decrease the number of migrants it serves, said Johnston. Earlier in the week, the city started ejecting about 800 migrant families from shelters as it scales back illegal immigrant aid.

Around 40,000 migrants, primarily from Venezuela, have arrived in Denver over the past year, with more than 3,500 living in hotel rooms funded by the city, according to the Colorado Sun.

“I want it to be clear to Denverites. Who is not responsible for this crisis that we’re in [is] folks who have walked 3,000 miles to get to this city,” said Johnston.

“Despite broad bipartisan support, I think [former President] Trump and Republican leaders saw this as a chance that if this bill passed, it would have successfully solved the problem facing cities and the border, and they would have rather see it fail, so they could exacerbate these problems, extend the suffering of American people and newcomers for their electoral changes this November,” said Johnston, according to The Hill. “That was far beyond what I expected from even the most cynical political operators.”

“Denverites have done their part; the city will do our part. The federal government failed to do its part. Addressing this crisis will require shared sacrifice, but we will continue to work together to meet this moment.”

Denver has received more migrants per capita than any other city

Previously, Johnston said that Denver has received more migrants per capita than any other city in the United States.

As part of the new cost-cut measures, the recreation center will close one day per week, while DMV satellite offices will alternate closing a week at a time starting March 4. The city also won’t recruit a new class of nine DMV workers.

Additionally, Denver Parks and Recreation will cut spring programs by 25%, with regional centers going from seven days per week operation to six days. Neighborhood and local centers will remain open six days a week but with reduced operation hours.

Mayor Johnston said full-time city employees will keep their jobs, but seasonal employees may have hours cut or positions left vacant.

Denver is a sanctuary city and has been struggling to make its limited resources stretch to support the increasing number of migrants. Texas has sent thousands of migrants to sanctuary cities, including Denver, to showcase the issues border states face when migrants swamp their towns. Johnston said the city was “very close” to the breaking point due to last week’s crisis.

The migrant influx has also pushed the city’s health system to the breaking point. Around 8,000 illegal immigrants recorded about 20,000 visits to Denver Health last year, receiving services like dental care, emergency room treatment, primary care, and childbirth. Denver’s health system has also called for a federal bailout.

The city passed laws to become a sanctuary city. However, it doesn’t include a right-to-shelter provision, which means no official policy obliges the local government to provide shelter continuously.