Residents of a Colorado city packed a council meeting Monday night to express outrage over the prospect of becoming a sanctuary for migrants crossing the southern border, although officials have formally denied such an effort.

The city of Lakewood sits just a few miles from the state’s capital of Denver and the two cities often help each other. However, when Denver declared it would open its doors and become a sanctuary for migrants, Lakewood did not. As shelters that Denver opened for migrants reached capacity, the crisis now appears to be falling into the laps of Lakewood. 

Monday’s city council meeting comes as officials have signaled a desire to help their neighbor and as Lakewood was weighing whether to accept a federal grant it was offered for a facility to help the city’s homeless. 

Residents have expressed concern it could be used to house migrants in the city, bringing the border crisis to their community – and subsequently urged officials to use the shelter to help Lakewood’s residents and not migrants from Denver. 

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Numerous residents also told the council on Monday evening about worries that migrants could overwhelm the city’s hospitals and infrastructure and increase crime. Residents also said they had concerns over how their tax money would be used to pay for migrants. 

During Monday night’s city council meeting, City Manager Kathy Hodgson said there was no plan to house migrants in Lakewood.

Residents also said they were worried about a meeting Lakewood government officials held last month with Denver officials, where they discussed the migrant crisis.

The purpose of the meeting was how Lakewood could help with the migrant crisis, although there is no official plan on how the city would help and that any assistance would be voluntary, Hodgson explained.

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She said the officials discussed “how Lakewood can learn about the migrant crisis and discuss potential opportunities to partner as a good neighbor, responding to the increasing migrant population arriving in Denver.”

“The situation is pretty fluid in nature. So at that time, we learned that in the past year, Denver had received over 38,000 migrant newcomers. And this is since December of 2022, about 200 arrivals per day,” she said. “That’s what we learned. Denver had spent approximately $46 million on the migrant newcomers shelter and associated support in 2023, securing housing for 4,000 people through 900 leases and providing more than 700,000 meals. Their average cost has been about $4 million per month. Denver indicated at that point that they are anticipating the costs for 2024 will be approximately $180 million.”

Migrants sleeping

However, Denver is not seeking to move their migrants into Lakewood facilities, she said.

“Due to the shift away from placing migrant newcomers in shelters, Lakewood is not being solicited for hotel, motel or congregate housing support,” Hodgson explained. “Denver is initiating what’s called a coordinated entry program, which is dispersing migrant groups to willing cities throughout the country and outside of the Denver metro area.”

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, a Democrat, is sending migrants across the country through Denver’s Onward Travel program, the city manager said.

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“Approximately half of the new arrivals deliberately choose to be relocated. Today, Denver has purchased about 19,000 onward transportation tickets for migrants in 2023, exceeding 5 million in cost, which averages about $300 per ticket,” she explained.

Residents raising hands

Hodgson reiterated: “Lakewood has no role in this program and has not been requested to participate in the onward travel program. The focus is an outreach to cities outside of the Denver metro region.”

Monday night’s city council meeting came after an emergency community meeting last Tuesday, when hundreds of residents voiced similar complaints.

Resident Karen Morgan, who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, said Lakewood has not used the word “sanctuary,” but it has used words such as “good neighbor, welcoming, inclusive, supporting, sheltering,” FOX31 reported.

“One definition of a sanctuary is the condition of being protected or comforted. Synonym: shelter,” she added.

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