What $180 million in illegal immigration cost means for Denver households and agencies

via denvergazette.com

Updated Mar 1, 2024  –

Mayor Mike Johnston’s projection that the city could spend up to $180 million this year on illegal immigration translates to more than $500 per Denver household, a new report said.

The estimate doesn’t include spending by nonprofits and health systems, which have also been groaning under the weight of “uncompensated care” in the form of emergency and other hospital visits by people without insurance.  

The mayor’s projection, assuming it holds true, would easily swallow the entire budgets of several city departments, according to the report from the Common Sense Institute.

“It’s a large and growing issue that has an impact on local budgets,” said DJ Summers, the group’s director of policy and research.

Summers added, “This is a very substantial cost. We wanted to offer some context around the spending and how massive it is.”

Founded in 2010, the nonprofit organization based in Greenwood Village conducts fiscal and economic research.

Johnston’s office took issue with pitting the projected costs against the budgets of city departments.

“Entire departments budgets are not on the table,” Jordan Fuja, a Johnston spokesperson said in an email to The Denver Gazette. “We have asked for agency leaders to assess where they can find savings.”

On Tuesday, Johnson warned councilmembers that the city has reached a breaking point with new immigrant arrivals — who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border — ending up in Denver, a crisis that now threatens the fiscal health of Colorado’s most populous city.

As of Thursday morning, Denver was sheltering 4,650 immigrants.

The Common Sense Institute said Johnston’s projections are “alarming but highly uncertain,” noting that $180 million is more than five times the spending reported in December last year. The group added that the city’s illegal immigration expenses could reach $55.5 million at the current rate of immigrants arriving in the city, based on publicly available spending data.

For example, Denver reported spending roughly $3 million in December on these new arrivals, according to an analysis of the city’s weekly updates.

“Budgets reflect policy choices,” Summers said. “Policymakers and the public should carefully weigh trade-offs prior to turning projections into budgetary commitments.”