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Denver Faces Challenges as Migrant Arrivals Overwhelm City Services

Denver, a city with a population of just over 710,000, has seen nearly 40,000 migrants arriving over the past year, making it the top destination per capita for migrants traveling north from the U.S. southern border.

This sudden influx is straining the city’s public services and safety net.

Migrant Shelter Limits

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Starting on February 5, Denver will enforce limits on the number of days migrants can stay in shelters, and those who exceed their allotted stay will be sent onto the streets.

Unfortunate Evictions

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A Venezuelan family, consisting of a mother, father, and three daughters, shared their plight with NBC news.

They had been staying in a city-paid hotel but received an eviction notice. The family expressed uncertainty about their next destination.

Denver Health’s Financial Burden

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Denver Health, the city’s “safety net” hospital, is grappling with $10 million in unpaid medical bills from migrants.

They are seeking additional funding from both state and federal governments to address this financial challenge.

Cost Estimates for Denver

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Denver Mayor Mike Johnston estimates that the city will require $100 million in 2024 to cover housing, education, healthcare, and other services for migrants due to the unexpected surge.

Healthcare Challenges

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Dr. Steven Federico, a pediatrician at Denver Health, emphasized the need for assistance from state and federal agencies to ensure healthcare access for this population.

He expressed concern about the responsibility falling on safety net hospitals like Denver Health.

Department of Homeland Security’s Statement

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The Department of Homeland Security stated that they will continue to collaborate with the city in welcoming recently arrived migrants.

They also urged Congress to approve a supplemental request for resources to manage the Southwest Border humanely.

Concerns of Medical Professionals

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Dr. Kristi Rodrigues, an emergency room pediatrician, worries about the ongoing care migrants will receive after leaving the ER.

She is concerned that patients may struggle to access checkups and medications for critical illnesses.

Health Issues Among Migrants

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Dr. Rodrigues has observed an increase in varicella (chickenpox) cases and parasitic problems due to poor drinking water consumed during migrants’ journeys to the United States.

Denver’s Welcoming Approach

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Denver has embraced migrants differently from other cities, with minimal protests.

Residents have collaborated with nonprofits, donating food, clothing, and organizing carpools to get new migrant students to school.

Impact on Schools

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Nearly 3,000 immigrant children, primarily from Venezuela, have joined the Denver Public School system since July.

Schools face funding challenges due to the sudden population increase.

Creative Solutions

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Schools like Bryant-Webster Dual Language School have had to adapt to an influx of new immigrant children.

Principal Brian Clark receives five to ten new immigrant students per week, a pace that used to take a year.

The Funding Challenge

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Both hospital and school administrators in Denver assert that while they have managed the influx so far, the rate of growth is unsustainable without additional external funding.

Biden Administration’s Request

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The Biden administration has requested $1.4 billion in grants for local governments and nonprofits to support recently arrived migrants with temporary food, shelter, and services.

However, Republicans have been hesitant to allocate more funds until certain legislative changes are made to restrict immigration across the southern border.

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