Colorado’s immigrant advocates are calling potential ICE arrests targeting Denver and other so-called sanctuary cities a political tactic by the president ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
Still, they say it instills fear and intimidation in immigrant communities, including among those who are in the country legally, and they are preparing to put up a fight.
A Washington Post story published Tuesday cited Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Department of Homeland Security officials — speaking on condition of anonymity — who said the “sanctuary op” was expected to begin this week in California and then expand to locations such as Denver. The sources also reported that the plan was more about political messaging than a large enforcement operation.
ICE officials in Denver have repeatedly denounced “sanctuary” policies that prevent full cooperation between local law enforcement agencies and the federal agency. Denver field office spokesperson Alethea Smock said in an email that officials can’t comment on planned operations or resource allocations but that ICE conducts targeted arrests regularly regardless of state and local agencies’ policies.
“Generally speaking, as ICE has noted for years, in jurisdictions where cooperation does not exist and ICE is not allowed to assume custody of aliens from jails, ICE is forced to arrest at-large criminal aliens out in the communities instead of under the safe confines of a jail,” Britney L. Walker, spokesperson for the agency’s Homeland Security Investigations, said in an email.
Mark Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, rejects the “sanctuary city” moniker for Denver, saying local and state jurisdictions have every right to limit cooperation with “the Trump administration’s over-zealous deportation machine.”
Jails notify ICE of detainees, but they can’t violate the state Constitution by holding them in jail for immigration detainers, he said.
Although the operation may not result in mass roundups — another announced mass operation failed to materialize last year — Colorado’s advocates are still upping their “know your rights” trainings and reminding people about the 24/7 Colorado Rapid Response hotline to report potential ICE activity.
“The Administration’s rhetoric attempts to divide the immigrant movement by criminalizing entire groups of people and behaving as though they do not deserve due process or human dignity,” said Angelica Prisciliano of the Colorado People’s Alliance in a statement. “But we’re not buying it. ICE was already routinely targeting Denver and the surrounding metro areas even before the city passed its public safety policy, they were just doing it without fanfare.”
Gladis Ibarra of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition lauded the state’s protections of immigrant rights communities, such as, most recently, the law passed to prohibit civil immigration arrests in or near courthouses when a person is there for an unrelated matter.
“We need to keep (immigrants) with their families and just stop the family separation all together,” she said. “Colorado is ready for continuing threats. … We will continue fight to besides them until everybody feels safe in Colorado.”
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