Two proposals are in the works aimed at protecting Denver’s immigrant and refugee communities.
On Wednesday, a proposed ordinance that would limit the city’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement passed easily through a Denver City Council committee.
Earlier this week, Mayor Michael Hancock announced a draft executive order that would take steps to remove Denver from immigration enforcement. City Council members Paul López and Robin Kniech proposed the ordinance that passed committee on a 6-1 vote.
The ordinance would prevent jail employees from contacting ICE about an individual’s release without a signed warrant from a federal judge or magistrate. ICE would also need a warrant to gain access to secure areas of a jail that are off-limits to the public.
“This bill is not about changing [ICE’s] responsibility, it’s not about impacting their job, it’s about simply saying, we are not required to do it and it’s not appropriate for us to do it,” said City Councilwoman Robin Kniech.
Currently, jail staff members give ICE agents a heads up about individuals they’re interested in before they’re released.
Earlier this year, the city found itself in a controversy for giving ICE only 26 minutes’ notice before releasing an inmate from the downtown Denver jail. Ever Valles was a known “immigration enforcement priority” before he was arrested and charged with the murder of a man at a light rail station.
Under the proposed city council ordinance, jail employees would not be required to give any notice to ICE of an inmate’s release without a warrant. Kniech pointed out that ICE agents know exactly who is being held in the city’s jail.
“They will continue to know who’s in our jail based on the federal requirements,” Kniech said. “We will continue to follow the law and if you have a warrant, you get access to our jail, you get access to inmates and that is the practice in our country.”
The proposed ordinance would require jail employees to share information with ICE about certain violent criminals and those involved in gangs.
“Where the law requires us to provide access, where the law requires us to share information, we would do that. We would continue to do that,” Kniech said.
Mayor Hancock’s administration is working on an executive order that seeks to protect the immigrant community but is not focused on the criminal justice system. A statement provided by the mayor’s office listed the following key elements of the draft executive order:
- Establish a legal defense fund in partnership with Councilman Paul López and the Denver City Council, nonprofits and the legal community.
- Protect victims of crime regardless of their immigration status and hold violent offenders in our community accountable, including those who prey on immigrants.
And assist children and families who become separated by the country’s broken immigration system.
City Council members discussed the executive order Wednesday and how it differed from the proposed ordinance.
“[The executive order] does not include any prohibition on sharing of information or collecting of information that’s not required by law,” Kniech said. “It is not as tight or as clear as what our community has asked for.”
The proposed ordinance will face its first vote before the full council on August 21 and a final vote on August 28.