Denver Mayor, Lauren Boebert Trade Jabs Over Denver Migrant "Playbook" | Westword

Mayor Johnston, Lauren Boebert Trade Jabs Over Denver "Playbook" for Migrants

Republicans say Denver is trying to convert other cities into migrant sanctuaries with the dissemination of a "Newcomers Playbook."
More than 42,000 migrants have come to Denver since December 2022.
More than 42,000 migrants have come to Denver since December 2022. Bennito L. Kelty
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Right-wingers across the country were clutching their pearls Tuesday, May 28, after a report came out via Fox News about Denver's "Newcomers Playbook," which details the "best practices and procedures" for cities dealing with a migrant crisis.

One of the Republicans seeing red was Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who attacked the Mile High City in an X post, which sparked a no-holds-barred clap-back from Denver Mayor Mike Johnston.

"This is a guide that tells other cities how to follow the Denver model of bringing illegals into a city," the District 3 rep seethed in a morning post. "I wish I was joking, but this is reality. We need to vote out everyone in government who refers to illegal alien criminal invaders as 'newcomers' and do so quickly. Our nation is being stolen from us and they're complicit."

Johnston, who released the 24-page document in April — described as a "guide" offering recommendations and strategies for "successfully integrating" migrants into a city — fired back at Boebert on Tuesday night in post on X, bringing up her Beetlejuice controversy from last year, in which she was bounced from the Buell Theatre for inappropriate behavior.

"Did I forget a section in the playbook about not vaping and getting handsy at Beetlejuice?" Johnston blasted. "We haven’t had that issue with any of our newcomers, but now that we know you're paying attention, we'll add it."
According to Jordan Fuja, press secretary for the mayor, Republicans have actually been the major cause of Denver's migrant crisis, with the city's newcomers coming "primarily from buses sent by Texas" over the past year and a half.

"Denver has received more than 42,000 newcomers," Fuja says. "We have responded to this crisis and created a blueprint for cities to stay true to their values while maintaining their city budget in the face of no federal support. While Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress continue to play politics with the border, vote against historic, bipartisan border legislation, and leave communities to solve this crisis on their own, this playbook provides guidance and support to the local leaders of cities where newcomers are settling."

Specifically, the playbook goes over fifteen steps for cities to take when dealing with an influx of migrants. They include offering "onward transportation" to another destination, sheltering newcomers temporarily, "enhancing" bilingual Spanish-speaking staff, setting up a "newcomer monetary fund" through a foundation, managing "in-kind" donations and distributions, assigning case managers, and providing "rapid" housing assistance and "vital support" in terms of medical and mental health, work authorization, legal assistance, school enrollment and more.

The main criticism coming from right-wingers is that taxpayer money is being spent on these "newcomer" efforts when it could instead be used on other local needs. In its report, Fox News notes how the Johnston administration announced around $45 million in budget cuts and adjustments last month to help fund a new $90 million migrant aid and housing plan.

Critics argue that Denver is encouraging other cities to take similar approaches and trying to "convert" them to sanctuary status by disseminating the playbook.  In addition to providing suggestions, the Denver Newcomers Playbook also outlines the Denver Asylum Seekers Program, launched in April to help migrants integrate into everyday life. It describes how the program will "open its doors" to approximately 1,000 people currently in the city's newcomer shelter system.

Migrants are connected to housing assistance options for up to six months from the date of their asylum application. A pre-work authorization readiness program, WorkReady, is offered, also, along with guidance from case managers, language instruction and workforce training opportunities.

"As Denver continues to learn and evolve with its newcomer response efforts, this playbook will be updated with new strategies," the introduction says. "In its current form, it serves as a framework for supporting new arrivals in your city. Thank you for joining us in this important effort, and we hope this playbook becomes a valuable resource for
your community."

While the playbook was released more than two months ago, it wasn't until this week that prominent right-wing accounts on social media and conservative media outlets like Breitbart and RedState began voicing public outrage over it, which prompted the Fox News report.
Fuja says Denver is unfazed by the pearl-clutching and happy to provide a road map for other cities to follow when dealing with their own migrant crisis.

According to the mayor's office, a number of cities have reached out and requested information about the playbook, leading to positive feedback.

"We're proud to help other cities turn crisis into opportunity by setting newcomers with work authorization up for success, building up local workforces to fill much-needed job openings, and growing local economies," Fuja tells Westword.

This article was updated on May 29 to include an X post from Mayor Mike Johnston.
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