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Limited funding could mean cuts to migrant services

Mayor Michael Hancock called the increase in migrant arrivals in Denver a humanitarian crisis and called for federal support. So far, the city has spent $16 million.

DENVER — Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Thursday that Denver cannot continue shouldering the cost of services for migrants. 

Of the $16 million the city has spent since December, only $900,000 has been reimbursed through the federal government. 

"Denver cannot continue to financially shoulder this burden alone. Our reserves are not bottomless. If this situation extends for police for a prolonged period of time, some hard choices are going to have to be made. To be clear, my team and I are already beginning to talk about service cuts," Hancock said. 

He would not elaborate on which services would be the first to be cut. Hancock said in a one-on-one interview with 9NEWS last week that the city is not "in the business of sheltering."

So far, the city has only added one additional shelter location. Recreation centers, previously used during the height of daily arrivals in January and February, will not reopen at this time. 

Hancock reiterated on Thursday that Denver does not have resources to continue sheltering and should not be the main agency providing that space. 

"It's not what we do. We don't have the resources to do it. It's best to get it in the hands of folks who are doing it. I think putting some guardrails in terms of what extent of services we can do, other than facilitating and being a connector and facilitator of services and making sure we fund or help get the resources to the nonprofit partners," Hancock said. 

The city is imploring community partners to step up to make more space, for more people to volunteer and monetary donations. 

"I'm going to cut to the chase and be very clear. We're in desperate need of emergency shelter space to accommodate," Hancock said. 

With the five shelters currently open, the city is sheltering roughly 1,000 people per night. They also made rapid arrangements earlier this week due to severe weather. An additional 300 or 400 people are arriving each day. 

'Federal responsibility'

With the lack of reimbursement from federal money, Hancock called out the federal government for failing to pass immigration reform and failing to provide additional resources. 

"Our cities in this country are bearing the burden of inactivity and leadership out of Congress. We are bearing this burden. This is a federal responsibility," Hancock said. 

According to Hancock, the city has encountered 10,000 migrants in the past 10 months, and has spent $16 million providing them support. He said the federal government has reimbursed Denver for just under $1 million.

"Denver residents shouldn't lose the services and resources they depend on and pay for with their tax dollars because Congress and the federal government are failing to do their jobs," Hancock said.

>Watch the full Thursday morning news conference:

Influx of migrants

The recent influx of migrants began last weekend after several months of declining arrivals.

In March and April, Hancock said, the city was seeing 20 to 30 migrants arriving daily.

On Tuesday, he said, nearly 400 migrants arrived in Denver. 

"That by far eclipses anything we experienced in December and January by far," he said.

Office of Emergency Management Director Matthew Muller said the Emergency Operations Center was active from December through March, and was deactivated when arrivals declined. 

However, he said the city had been preparing to reactive the EOC and had been expecting an influx with the pending expiration of Title 42 Thursday night. The EOC was reactivated Thursday. 

The reception center for the migrants has been moved to a city building, but Muller said that is temporary as officials look for a better long-term location.

Hancock said that while sheltering new migrants is important, many are trying to get somewhere else in the country, and transportation is also a key part of addressing the arrivals.

"The reception center serves as a welcoming point for migrants and asylum seekers as they come in, where they can be triaged. We can determine if they want to stay here in Colorado or want to move on to another location," Muller said.

Hancock said the city does not get advanced notice that busloads of migrants are arriving in Denver.

He said that with more than 150,000 migrants estimated currently waiting at the border, the city is preparing for arrivals to continue and increase with the expiration of Title 42.

"We're doing the best we can," he said. "We will continue to try to respond in a compassionate and humane way, and care for those who come into our city. But we have arrived at a point where our resources are stressed. We have a responsibility as a city to make sure we care for not only the souls who come here, but to also be fiscally responsible."


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