Two Denver City Council members, Paul López and Robin Kniech, have proposed a city ordinance to foster community trust between the immigrant community and law enforcement and to promote public safety. According to Kniech and López, the Denver Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act formalizes practices currently in place in Denver on three fronts and provides one new proposal.
First, the ordinance prevents the detention of individuals beyond their sentence term. Second, it prohibits city employees from requesting or recording of immigration status, unless required by state or federal law.
The third proposal is a new addition to current city policy: the ordinance prohibits city employees from sharing information for purposes of immigration enforcement unless the information falls under certain exceptions.
Fourth, the use of city resources for civil immigration enforcement is prohibited. Also, it prevents city officials’ cooperation with civil immigration enforcement. These prohibitions include not providing access to private areas of inmate facilities to federal officials.
The City Council’s Education and Homelessness Committee passed the Ordinance on Aug. 2, which means the ordinance now moves on to the full vote of the City Council. According to Colorado People’s Alliance, committee members Paul López, Robin Kniech, Stacie Gilmore, Paul Kashmann, and Wayne New voted in support of the ordinance while Kevin Flynn voted in opposition.
“‘Unfortunately, there are a lot of people still living in fear,’” López told The Denver Post. “‘It absolutely is unacceptable. We hope to clarify what our city is already doing and fill in those gaps,’” López said.
Meanwhile, Mayor Hancock has a proposed executive order that is similar to the city ordinance but with a few key differences that some argue do not go far enough in protecting the immigrants. For example, the mayor’s proposed order would allow deputies to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) officials of upcoming jail releases of those inmates wanted on immigration matters.
In contrast, the proposed city ordinance says ICE would not be informed of imminent jail releases of inmates wanted on immigration issues. However, López and Kniech told The Denver Post that deputies would notify ICE and hold the inmates if the ICE agents have a lawful arrest warrant issued by a judge or magistrate.
Chris Lasch, a professor of law at the University of Denver told the Denverite either proposal is likely to offend Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Lasch noted that the provision in Hancock’s proposed order allowing deputies to notify ICE of upcoming releases is a critical difference between the two proposals.
Lasch said allowing notification to ICE of an inmate’s impending release who is wanted on immigration charges could subject that inmate with an original charge of a traffic offense to deportation proceedings.
Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Colorado People’s Alliance, and Mi Familia Vota, community organizations that support immigrants’ rights on social and economic issues have voiced their support of the proposed ordinance and encouraged people to contact city council members. While the groups are grateful for Hancock’s support of the issue, many believe the mayor’s executive order does not go far enough.
Salvador Hernandez of Mi Familia Vota told The Denver Post “‘We’ve been trying to have this conversation with the mayor, but he hasn’t tried to engage with us to solve the problem,’” said Hernandez. “‘We’re still going to push for a city ordinance, which we think it is the appropriate way to do it, ’” he said.
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group opposed to the proposed city ordinance told The Denver Post that city council’s motivation behind the ordinance, to promote community trust and public safety, are a cover to gain political favor.
Denise Maes, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado public policy director, acknowledged to The Denver Post that “‘Mayor Hancock’s draft executive order is definitely a good start, and we applaud the city’s initiative to ensure that Denver remains a safe and welcoming city,’” Meas said.
One issue the ACLU has with the mayor’s executive order is the lack of permanency. A new mayor could rescind the executive order without council approval. Meas hopes the mayor and council can work together and enact a strong permanent ordinance.
The two proposals with alternative approaches to blocking federal immigration enforcement have potential to collide. The Denver City Council will vote on The Denver Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act at its regular meeting on August 21. According to The Denver Post, it is unclear when the mayor plans on signing the executive order.