Denver asks ICE agents to respect courts, schools

A letter sent by Denver officials to the local acting director ICE asked they respect "sensitive locations" in their job.

DENVER - A letter sent Thursday by Denver officials to the local acting director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asked that they respect “sensitive locations” in their job, especially Denver schools or courthouses, a news release from Denver said.

These Denver officials come from the city, state, county courts and public school system. The letter is signed by Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver City Council members, Judge Theresa Spahn, District Attorney Beth McCann, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg and Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson.

"We're not trying to shield violent offenders here," said Bronson.

This letter follows the Associated Press report Tuesday that the Homeland Security Department “is making no promises” that immigrants living in America illegally won’t be arrested and possibly deported if they report they’ve been the victim of or witness to a crime.

Specifically, the letter refers to an incident that happened on March 14 near a new Colorado High School Charter location at Race Street and East 48th Avenue, near I-70 and Brighton Boulevard, in the Elyria Swansea area.  According to ICE, agents were there arresting 58-year-old Victor Manuel Rodriguez-Covarrubias. The agency says he entered the U.S. legally in 1999 with a Border Crossing Card that expired in 2009. Since, Rodriguez-Covarrubias has had two DUI convictions, and a felony conviction for driving with a revoked license. 

VIDEO: ICE agents arrest man near Colorado High School Charter

The letter says this happened within plain view of parents and children, and according to the city, it could have put them in danger. Denver also says this action violated ICE's "sensitive location memorandum" from 2011.

The city, too, raised concerns about ICE agents wearing uniforms that say "POLICE" in large lettering. The letter says, “The Denver Police Department has worked tirelessly to reassure the immigrant community that they should feel comfortable calling the police and reporting crimes.”

Also mentioned in the letter is the video showing ICE agents in the Lindsay-Flannigan Courthouse downtown.

Related: “ICE agents recorded in Denver courthouse were trying to arrest four-time felon”

Related: Colorado Rep accuses ICE agent of going ‘rogue'

Related: ICE agents didn't make a traffic stop in Longmont to ask for immigration papers

The city wrote that they worry this kind of action will lead to an "environment of fear" for victims and witnesses in courtroom setting. According to the city, victims of domestic violence have already refused to come to court for fear of immigration consequences. 

"We've already had domestic violence victims who have contacted us, in pending cases, and let us know they were unwilling to continue with those cases and testify in court for fear of deportation," said Bronson. "Those individuals or witnesses or victims don't show up because they're afraid of getting deported in the courthouse. We're required to then dismiss the charges because we don't have the evidence to support the claim. It presents a tool for abusers to continue to use to manipulate their domestic partners."

Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said to AP that arrests in a courthouse can be necessary because deportable immigrants may not be detained long enough for ICE agents to take into custody.

Next reached out to ICE for comment. Spokesperson Carl Rusnok did not address the incident near the school, but he said ICE will respond to the mayor directly. Rusnok added ICE agents are directed to avoid schools, places of worship and hospitals, without special circumstances or advanced permission.

In reference, to courthouse arrests, ICE does not consider that to be a "sensitive location." However, according to Rusnok, enforcement actions at a courthouse only happen after: 

  • Many of the arrest targets ICE has sought out at or near courthouses are foreign nationals who have prior criminal convictions in the U.S. In years past, most of these individuals would have been turned over to ICE by local authorities upon their release from jail based on ICE detainers.
  • When criminal custody transfers occur inside the secure confines of a jail or prison, it’s far safer for everyone involved, including our officers and the person being arrested. Now that some law enforcement agencies no longer honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat. When ICE Fugitive Operations officers have to proactively search for these criminal aliens, regardless of the precautions they take, it needlessly puts our personnel and potentially innocent bystanders in harm’s way.
  • Moreover, tracking down our priority fugitives is highly resource-intensive. It’s not uncommon for our criminal alien targets to utilize multiple aliases and provide authorities with false addresses. Many do not have a stable place of employment.
  • Absent a viable address for a residence or place of employment, a courthouse may afford the most likely opportunity to locate a target and take him or her into custody.
  • Additionally, because courthouse visitors are typically screened upon entry to search for weapons and other contraband, the safety risks for the arresting officers and for the arrestee are substantially diminished.
  • In such instances where deportation officers seek to conduct an arrest at a courthouse, every effort is made to take the person into custody in a secure area, out of public view, but this is not always possible.

You can read the full letter below: 

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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