ICYMI: Denver Stands Up a “Real Plan” to Address Migrant Crisis

Published on April 12, 2024

In case you missed it, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston this week announced the first step in providing a long-term, sustainable response to the newcomer crisis that avoids significant cuts to public services. The innovative new plan, which cuts the projected annual cost for newcomer programs in half, will connect asylum-seekers with housing assistance, workforce training, and legal assistance to ensure they have the resources they need to be successful as they apply for asylum and work towards legal work authorization.

The Denver Post Editorial Board yesterday applauded Mayor Johnston for the plan, saying it has “real merit and is worth the risks,” and that it “is perhaps the most ambitious plan developed by Mayor Mike Johnston to date.”  

Read more from the editorial

  • Denver’s new plan to care for migrants and refugees has real merit and is worth the risks.
  • The Denver Asylum Seeker Program launched on Wednesday is perhaps the most creative and ambitious plan developed by Mayor Mike Johnston, to date, and that’s saying something.
  • We are proud that our city — once defiantly proclaiming “Immigrants Welcome” during the Trump administration — has stepped up to care for the approximately 40,000 people who were bussed here from the southern border.
  • But that care has cost $68 million since December of 2022.
  • Johnston’s plan will provide more services to fewer refugees, allowing the city to reduce costs and avoid public-facing budget cuts.
  • The Asylum Seeker Program will give the roughly 800 refugees and migrants currently in Denver hotel shelters and 200 other individuals intensive legal assistance for up to six months.
  • That legal assistance could help people proactively apply for asylum and receive temporary work permits while their cases are adjudicated in the backlogged immigration court system. During that time, the city will house and feed the immigrants.
  • Moving away from the city’s current policy of offering two week stays (42 days for families) in hotels is necessary because the newest arrivals have the hardest path to employment and self-sufficiency.
  • Our market for jobs that pay cash outside federal employment laws is saturated. Those arriving today also don’t qualify for Temporary Protected Status and are unable to book appointments through Customs and Border Protection’s mobile application to claim asylum.
  • We buy into the idea that it’d be better to support fewer families while helping them file their complex legal cases and get work permits than to house thousands for 14 days and kick them out without a viable path to employment. Also, the entire Denver metro area will benefit from employees jumping into a strong labor market full of vacancies.
  • Denver will begin to act as a clearinghouse for refugees, providing 48 hours of emergency congregate shelter and care, but then pushing people out.
  • Denver’s dedicated employees will be working hand in hand with other cities across the nation so their mayors can replicate our Asylum Seeker Program.  
  • By and large, those arriving in America from other countries are ready and eager to work. By showing cities how they can help this wayward group get work permits, Denver can help with their employee shortages and save Denver taxpayers money.
  • Some refugees and migrants might go to family and friends who can support them and pay for their asylum cases to be filed, or to employment that occurs illegally outside of our federal tax system in other cities and states.
  • Johnston assures us that Denver will not be using charter buses for mass removal from Colorado, but will instead be purchasing tickets on an individual basis for destinations where food and shelter (and hopefully legal aid set up using the Denver model) exist.
  • We can hold our heads high that we continue to care for refugees. But now it’s time for Johnston to do what Biden should have done long ago and launch a nationwide resettlement program with a blueprint for obtaining job permits.
  • We know there are places in America with ethical leaders who will step up and meet Johnston’s call, using their own city’s resources (coupled with some state and federal dollars) to get these refugees on their feet while they wait years for their asylum cases to be processed.
  • Between the inept response from Biden and the unethical response from Abbott, we’ll fully endorse Johnston’s approach. We implore other cities to support refugees while providing the expensive legal aid needed to get work permits.

Read more about Denver’s innovative newcomer response plan:

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