Denver immigrants have cost city up to $340 million, according to estimates

By Barnini Chakraborty
June 10, 2024 5:00 am

Denver has spent up to $340 million to clothe, educate, feed, and provide healthcare for thousands of illegal immigrants who have made their way to Colorado’s capital city in the past two years, according to new estimates from the Common Sense Institute.

The “sanctuary city” has cared for more than 42,195 migrants, according to the city’s dashboard, which updates its totals daily.

Motorists move northbound along South Broadway as the skyline of Denver stands as a backdrop on Feb. 12, 2024, in Englewood, Colorado. Denver has been disrupted by an influx of largely Venezuelan migrants who head north from Mexico, becoming a flashpoint in elections locally and nationally. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

There are presently 446 newcomers seeking shelter in hotels. While the number of illegal immigrants crossing into the state has significantly dropped off since its January highs, the city, which boasts a population of 710,000, is struggling to accommodate the new arrivals.

Most recently, Denver rolled out its controversial new strategy to offer illegal immigrants six months of free housing, job training, language instruction, and legal support in filing asylum claims. The goal is that after the six-month term is up, they will be ready to either move on or become productive residents who are able to make a living legally and contribute to the economy.

“This is investing in people to set them up to be independent and thrive,” said Sarah Plastino, who is overseeing the program. “We know that when we set people up for success, people really do succeed.”

The city expects to enroll 800 migrants in the coming months, though only those who don’t yet qualify for a work permit can participate in the program.

The majority of migrants who have traveled to Denver are from Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

To date, Denver has spent an estimated $70 million in migrant response goods and services. The services have been administered partly by the city and partly by nonprofit organizations.

During the height of the migrant influx earlier this year, Denver officials estimated it would cost the city $180 million to care for them through the end of 2024. The city has since revised its estimate to $90 million.

Denver has tapped into federal funding from existing programs, city grant programs, and from cuts to the city’s budget to free up the funds.

“To fund the estimated $90 million in funding through 2024, the Denver City Council faced a requested $45 million cut, $17 million of which came from public safety agencies including Denver Police Department ($8.4 million) and Denver Fire Department ($2.5 million),” according to the report.

The drain on resources has led to resentment from locals and surrounding counties that have said they don’t have the means to shoulder the responsibilities associated with caring for them.

To be sure, the Denver metropolitan area has been hit the hardest when it comes to education and providing healthcare for the migrants.

Since December 2022, 17 school districts have seen 15,725 new migrant students. Denver Public Schools saw a growth of 5,322 migrant students, of whom 55% were from Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, according to the Common Sense Institute.

Nearby Aurora Public Schools enrolled 3,839 new students in total, with 2,026 coming from the five Latin American countries. Cherry Creek schools saw 624 new students, Jefferson County had 608, Adams 12 Five Star Schools saw 344, and Westminster Public Schools saw 299 new arrivals.

“At $14,100 in instruction support per student, the number of students the Denver metro school districts absorbed from the five countries will cost $98 million,” the report noted.

There has also been a significant hike in healthcare costs.

In Denver, hospitals spent about $2,931 in uncompensated care per migrant, while area emergency departments provided an estimated $47.6 million in free care, according to the report.