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Senate Failure to Mend U.S. Asylum Law Strains Denver

The city of Denver has absorbed nearly 40,000 migrants in a little over a year, more per capita than any other U.S. city. It is second only to New York in the total number of foreigners who have arrived since 2022. The influx is straining the city’s budget, crowding schools and hospitals, and increasing the homeless population, the Wall Street Journal reports. Denver has spent more than $42 million in the past year to house and feed the new arrivals. Public schools have ballooned by more than 3,000 students, creating a budget shortfall of roughly $17.5 million. The city’s safety-net hospital has seen at least 9,000 migrant patients in the past year, costing at least $10 million in unreimbursed care. The Senate bill to overhaul U.S. asylum law that failed last week held the promise of immediately unlocking $1.4 billion to reimburse cities and nonprofit aid groups that have been caring for migrants. The legislation would have effectively shut down the border to asylum seekers if more than 4,000 a day attempted to cross, potentially cutting in half the total of arriving migrants.


The problem from the perspective of local leaders is that migrants are arriving with no way to support themselves because most asylum seekers don't receive work permits until about a year after they arrive, thanks to a mix of immigration restrictions and bureaucratic delays. The legislation would have set up a process under which migrants’ asylum claims are given an initial assessment within 90 days, after which they are either deported or allowed to work pending the resolution of their cases within another 90 days. Policymakers say a way to discourage migrants from coming to the U.S. is by simply deciding their cases quickly and deporting those who don’t qualify, effectively ending the incentive to come and work in the U.S. for years pending a court resolution. In Denver, nearly every corner of the city has been affected by the rising migrant population. As many as 100 migrants arrive on some days, funneling into city-provided hotels where they receive two meals a day. Migrant men, unable to work legally, are visible throughout the city, offering to wash windshields for change at crowded intersections and selling food or flowers to passing cars. 

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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