In an effort to ramp up resistance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and protect Denver’s undocumented residents, both Denver City Council and Mayor Michael Hancock are working on proposals to enact certain “sanctuary city” policies.
Hancock unveiled a draft of an executive order Tuesday that would prohibit local law enforcement from allowing ICE to make arrests in Denver jails without a warrant. It would also prohibit ICE from obtaining written information about undocumented persons being held in Denver jails, and create an immigrant legal defense fund.
But Denver City Council has a plan in the works that would implement additional protections. Its proposal would bar city employees from sharing information on Denver residents with federal immigration officers and stop the Denver Sheriff’s Department from notifying ICE of the time and place of an undocumented person’s release from the Denver county jail.
Furthermore, the Council’s proposal would create more permanence by enacting a city ordinance, which, unlike Hancock’s executive order, couldn’t be reversed by the mayor alone.
City Council’s Safety, Housing, Education & Homelessness Committee passed the Public Safety Enforcement Priority Act Wednesday. The first full council vote will take place on August 21.
Immigrant communities and their allies in Denver say the mayor’s proposal falls short of creating a long term solution. Denver attorney Hans Meyer, who has represented undocumented residents in some of Denver’s high-profile immigration cases, was highly critical of Hancock’s plan in a statement:
“If Mayor Hancock wants to stand up for the principles he espouses and protect Denver’s immigrant community against the Trump administration’s deportation machine, then he should adopt all the substantive protections of the proposed ordinance and not simply cherry pick the parts that make for easy sound bites. Better yet, Mayor Hancock should publicly support the ordinance our immigrant community has worked so hard to create. Hancock’s proposed executive order fails to extract Denver probation officers, city employees, and jail personnel from colluding with ICE to deport immigrant community members. Those protections matter if an executive order is to have any meaning.”
Immigrant rights advocates have argued that strong sanctuary policies will make the city safer for everyone, and have been pushing the Mayor’s office to implement protections for months.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Denver crime reports increased overall by 3.6 percent in the first three months of 2017. Crime reporting among Latinos, who constitute a third of Denver’s population, has fallen by 12 percent during the same time period. The Colorado Peoples Alliance (COPA) said in a statement that these numbers signify the loss of trust between Denver’s Latinx community and local law enforcement.
In the last year, 279 undocumented Denver residents were deported due to compliance between the Denver Sheriff Department and ICE, according to COPA.
According to the Denver Post, the mayor’s proposal attempts to straddle the line between protecting immigrants and preventing Denver from becoming a federal target following threats from Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to withhold federal grants from cities that don’t cooperate with immigration officials.