Cox condemns Denver sending migrants to Utah, says ‘resources are completely depleted’

Jun 14, 2024, 4:29 PM | Updated: 10:30 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox is reacting to news that Denver officials have paid travel costs to send migrants to Utah, calling it “unacceptable” and saying the state’s “resources are completely depleted.”

Cox issued a statement on the social platform X in response to a news report that Denver has paid for some 2,000 migrants to travel to Utah in the past 18 months.

“We recently learned that the Democrat mayor of Denver has been sending illegal immigrants to Utah without proper notification or approval,” the Republican governor said. “This is completely unacceptable and follows on the failed catch-and-release policy of the Biden administration.”

“Every state has received illegal immigrants and Utah’s resources are completely depleted,” Cox continued. “All 50 states, including Utah, are now border states due to the failed immigration policies of President Biden and Congress. Once again we call on the Biden administration and Congress to solve the crisis.”

Cox’s statement was in response to a KUTV story about the number of migrants Denver helped to travel to Utah. The story quoted a Denver official who said the migrants chose their destination and the city helps facilitate travel to meet up with friends or family.

Denver has bought thousands of bus tickets for immigrants since November 2022, according to a Denverite article in February, with some 3,400 to Chicago, 2,880 to New York City and 1,680 to Salt Lake City.

A spokesman for the Salt Lake City mayor’s office said Mayor Erin Mendenhall is aware of incoming migrants and has spoken with Denver Mayor Mike Johnston in the past month. But he said the administration is trying to get the message out that there is a shortage of resources.

“More often, our metro area is seeing the arrival of families seeking asylum, who do not have existing connections or family in Utah,” Andrew Wittenberg said. “Contact and communication about their arrival would require other state and local governments or nonprofits outside Utah to connect with local service providers or officials in advance. Like many local governments working to navigate this increasing nationwide challenge, Utah does not have a formal entrance process for new arrivals, and often those who arrive in Salt Lake City spread out to locations across Salt Lake County and the region.”

He said the city is working with the state and county to communicate the lack of resources available.

“The message conveyed is that Utah’s emergency shelters and services are currently operating at full capacity,” he said.

Utah House Minority Leader Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, issued a statement Friday afternoon, noting that “asylum seekers have a legal right to be in the U.S. under immigration law,” and said migrants “entering Utah are at various stages within the legal asylum-seeking process” that began at the border.

“Amidst the debates and policies regarding immigration, it’s crucial to remember that asylum seekers are real people, including many children, who have endured incredibly harsh conditions and arrived here with hopes and dreams of a better life,” she said.

Romero also called on Congress to approve a bipartisan immigration bill, saying it’s “not a perfect bill,” but “would have addressed the issues we’re dealing with today.”

“We urge our governor, the state Legislature, and the entire Utah congressional delegation to leverage this opportunity and ask Congress to bring the bill to a vote,” she added.

Immigration has become a flashpoint in Cox’s campaign for reelection, as GOP challenger and state Rep. Phil Lyman has repeatedly claimed Utah is a “sanctuary state” for undocumented immigrants.

“I’m grateful our legacy media is reporting on Utah’s sanctuary state status,” Lyman said in a post Friday. “Late; very, very late is better than never. Spencer Cox needs to be retired, Utah’s future depends on it.”

Cox and other officials, including sheriffs from across the state have spoken out against such claims. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo, which has since been rescinded, has led to other allegations of the state being a sanctuary for migrants, but Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith, who also leads the Utah Sheriffs’ Association, in October called the memo “misleading, reckless and damaging to any further interactions with ICE.”

“Let me say this as clearly as possible: Utah is not a sanctuary state. It has never been a sanctuary state. It will never be a sanctuary state. And anyone who tells you otherwise is lying,” Cox said during a virtual town hall in March. “They’re lying to you because they want to use fear and divisiveness to try to gain power.”

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Cox condemns Denver sending migrants to Utah, says ‘resources are completely depleted’