Denver is cutting $5 million from public services used by its residents in order to pay for its spiraling illegal immigration costs, with the city’s mayor pinning the blame on Republicans and former President Donald Trump.
Mayor Mike Johnston, a Democrat, announced on Friday that hours will be cut at recreation centers, and in-person vehicle registration renewals at the DMV will end, while the planting of spring flower beds will also be stopped to save the much-needed cash.
The cuts follow the mayor’s decision last month to divert $25 million from the city budget to the migrant crisis. That plan included pulling $10 million from a contingency fund and $15 million from a building remodel. Those actions followed the city’s decision to hold many positions vacant and review new or expanded contracts and programs.
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Johnston says the crisis will cost the city around $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,” Johnston said after the Republicans blocked a bipartisan border deal, which included a foreign aid package for Ukraine and Israel, from advancing 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,” he said, fighting back tears at a Friday press conference.
Along with these department budget cuts, the city will decrease the number of migrants it serves and will continue to monitor spending, Johnston said. Earlier this week, the city began ejecting around 800 migrant families from shelters as it scales back on aid for illegal immigrants.
About 40,000 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, have arrived in Denver over the past year, and more than 3,500 are living in city-funded hotel rooms, according to the Colorado Sun.
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“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,” he said.
“Despite broad bipartisan support, I think [former President] Trump and Republican leaders saw this as a chance that if this bill actually passed, it would have successfully solved the problem facing cities and the border, and they would have rather seen it fail, so they could exacerbate these problems, extend the suffering of American people and of newcomers for their own electoral changes this November,” he said, according to The Hill.
“That was far beyond what I expected from even the most cynical of political operators.”
“Denverites have done their part, the city will do our part. The federal government failed to do their part. Addressing this crisis will require shared sacrifice, but we will continue to work together to meet this moment.”
Johnston has previously said that Denver has received more migrants per capita than any other city in the nation.
As part of the new cost-cutting measures, recreation centers will close one day each week, while DMV satellite offices will alternate closing one week at a time beginning March 4. The city will not recruit a class of nine new DMV employees.
Furthermore, Denver Parks and Recreation will cut spring programs by 25%, and regional centers will go from seven days of weekly operation to six days. Local and neighborhood centers will continue to be open six days a week but with a reduction in hours of operation.
Johnston said that full-time city officials will not lose their jobs, but seasonal employees may have their hours cut or positions left open.
The sanctuary city has been struggling to stretch its limited resources to support the growing number of migrants there. Texas has transported thousands of migrants to sanctuary cities like Denver, to showcase the problems that border states face when migrants flood their cities. Johnston told Fox News last week that the city was “very close” to a breaking point due to the crisis.
The influx of migrants has also put the city’s health system at a breaking point.
About 8,000 illegal immigrants recorded about 20,000 visits to Denver Health last year, receiving services such as emergency room treatment, primary care, dental care and childbirth. The health system has also called for a federal bailout.
Denver passed laws to become a sanctuary city, but it doesn’t include a right-to-shelter provision, which means there is no official policy that compels the local government to provide shelter indefinitely.
Fox News’ Alba Cuebas-Fantauzzi contributed to this report.
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