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The Denver City Council said it is aware the city might lose funding after unanimously passing the Denver Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act on Monday night.

As part of President Donald Trump’s focus on stricter immigration policies and enforcement, the federal government has threatened to withhold grant money from so-called sanctuary cities.

The bill sponsors said they would forgo the money, or potentially challenge the government with lawsuits.

9NEWS verified what Denver funds are at risk.


The Department of Justice says they will not give out Justice Assistance Grants to sanctuary cities, which is federal money for local law enforcement agencies.

"We are choosing to forgo some funding that requires us to collect data that we don't need to have. We don't want to collect information on national origin or citizenship, it puts our residents at risk,” said Denver City Council Member Robin Kniech.

“For other grants related to law enforcement safety, we fully believe the administration has overstepped their boundaries, they are not following proper protocol for rule making."

Last year Denver received a little more than $904,000 in JAG funds, which is now at risk along with any other federal funding the administration has threatened to withhold from sanctuary cities.


The act establishes rules for how City of Denver employees interact with immigration officials, which city leaders say is putting a longstanding policy in writing.

City employees will not collect information on immigration status, and the city will not:

  • Detain anyone beyond sentencing on behalf of ICE
  • Share anyone’s citizenship for immigration enforcement
  • Allow ICE agents into jails without a warrant

To read more about the act, you can go to our story about its passage.

There is no specific definition for a sanctuary city, but the label is often applied to states, counties and cities that have policies or laws reducing involvement with immigration enforcement.

Denver has never labeled itself in this way.

"This does not make Denver a sanctuary city. We don't violate any part of U.S. code 1373," said Denver City Council Member Paul Lopez.

The code makes it so no federal, state or local law can restrict the government from getting someone's citizenship or immigration status.

"Federal law is really clear. We have to share immigration status information if we know it,” said Denver City Council Member Robin Kniech. “But we're not required to collect that information, we're not required to share information about where someone is, what their appointment time might be if they have an appointment for example at the courthouse."

Denver ICE field office director Jeffrey Lynch called the ordinance "irresponsible" and a "dangerous policy" that "protects serious criminal alien offenders and undermines public safety."


Denver is part of a growing list of cities being referred to as a "sanctuary city.”

Dozens of other cities face similar threats, including Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, and Philadelphia, which have been making headlines.

Denver’s new ordinance reflects policies in the following cities. To defend their stances, some cities have taken legal action.


The City of Chicago has a “Welcoming City Ordinance” outlining local policies to ensure undocumented people are not prosecuted merely because of their immigration status. In November, Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) reiterated the city’s sanctuary status as a home to “hardworking, honest individuals,” regardless of where they were born.

“The Sanctuary City protection covers Chicagoans of all ages—in school, at work and as they seek city supports and resources,” according to the City of Chicago website. “This means that Chicago police officers cannot arrest on the basis of immigration status.”

Emanuel sued the justice department earlier this month over Trump’s threat to withhold federal grants.


San Francisco officials also sued the Trump administration earlier this month over the issue, asserting threats to withhold federal funding from “sanctuary cities” are unconstitutional and violate residents’ rights. On Mayor Ed Lee’s (D) webpage San Francisco is labeled a sanctuary city “now, tomorrow and forever.” According to the Sanctuary Ordinance on the city’s website, “The Sanctuary Ordinance generally prohibits City employees from using City funds or resources to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of Federal immigration law unless such assistance is required by federal or state law.”

It also said San Francisco passed the “Due Process for All” Ordinance, which limits when city law enforcement give ICE notice of someone’s release from jail and forbids cooperation with detainer requests.


The City of New York also has a democratic mayor and a policy to promote access to services and benefits for immigrants. According to the city’s Immigrant Rights and Services Manual, “Executive Order 41 generally requires City employees to protect the confidentiality of a person’s immigration status and other kinds of personal information... many services, such as public health, safety and education services are available to immigrants of any status, including undocumented immigrants.”


Philadelphia also has a Mayor, Jim Kenney (D). The city’s website states, “the Trump Administration continues to enact policies at odds with many Philadelphians’ beliefs, we understand the frustration or anger many of you are feeling.”

Under its “Immigration & Sanctuary Cities: City of Philadelphia Action Guide,” the city said it works with anti-terrorism and drug trafficking task forces, and does not stop ICE from arresting undocumented people.

According to the city website, “Philadelphia will resist any federal order that attempts to turn Philadelphians against one another and makes us weaker and less safe.”

Similarly to Denver, the city law enforcement and other officials are not generally allowed to collect immigration information from people, there is no information to give to ICE.