Experts are split on whether or not it's a good idea for Denver to shelter and care for children who entered the U.S. illegally without their parents.
The federal government is offering about $4 million a year to cities who can house and provide other services to these children. Denver is considering taking up the federal government on the offer.
In a statement Friday, Mayor Michael Hancock says some Denver relatives of the children will likely want to take them in, so it makes financial sense to consider asking for the funding.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have come through the border since last October. These children largely hail from South America, and say they are escaping drug cartels, gang violence, murder and rape. The huge influx of child immigrants has led to fierce debates over whether they are refugees in need of asylum or illegal immigrants who should be deported. In either case, a 2008 law requires that all unaccompanied minors who aren't from Mexico or Canada receive a hearing before potential deportation.
“The children who are trying to come to this country without their parents are victims of a humanitarian crisis. In Denver, we care about kids. The work of departments like DHS is how we answer the call to serve,” Hancock said in a statement.
Dr. Jason Brennan, a Georgetown University professor, said the influx of immigrants could benefit the country in the long run.
“One of the worries is the cost. Children are a net tax lost. You’re paying education and so on up front,” Brennan said. “The question is what they do when they’re older. They’ll probably start working and become net taxpayers over the course of their lifetime. I think if you do this the right way, it could be in the country’s self-interest.”
On the other hand, David Inserra of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, told KKTV sister station KCNC allowing the children into the U.S. creates a dangerous precedent.
“We need to make sure we’re sending an appropriate message that if you come to the United States illegally we won’t let you stay,” he said. “Right now, our policies are allowing these kids to stay and while it might feel humanitarian right now, it’s encouraging additional waves.”
Denver Department of Human Services spokeswoman Ana Mostaccero says the city hasn't submitted an application yet and is still doing a feasibility study. The city has until Aug. 6 to submit an application.
If the city wins a grant, the children would be placed in the existing Family Crisis Center. It has bedrooms, classrooms and a dining hall that is only partially being used.