Oct 23, 2020 | NEWS | By Psalm Delaney | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
Sanctuary cities have become significant topics of discussion as the U.S. approaches Nov. 3. Sanctuary cities and states have laws, ordinances, or protocols that inhibit the enforcement of federal immigration laws and protect undocumented people from the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
In August, President Trump articulated his anger with sanctuary cities and threatened to end federal funding to any city that harbors undocumented people from federal law. Moreover, ICE launched an operation at the beginning of October which targeted undocumented immigrants with past criminal records in sanctuary cities across the country.
In the fiscal year 2019, ICE arrest data revealed the most common offenses for those arrested by ICE and categorized as criminals: DUI offenses, drug offenses, traffic offenses, and immigration offenses.
As of Aug. 25, there are a total of 10 sanctuary states, within which exist a total of 178 total cities and counties. Colorado is included as one of the 10 states and contributes 14 cities and counties to the national total. According to ICE, “Colorado law prohibits local and state agencies from cooperating with ICE, even in circumstances where illegal aliens have committed crimes.”
Detainer ordinances are the primary tactic used by ICE for detaining, obtaining custody of, and deporting undocumented people. They involve asking local police departments to keep people in police custody until ICE intervenes. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, local and state sanctuary governments resist ICE detainer policies by “refusing to or prohibiting agencies from complying with ICE detainers [and] imposing unreasonable conditions on detainer acceptance.”
On Aug. 31, the President stated that “[the Trump administration] will end sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths. Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer’s dollars,” despite not citing any evidence of these “needless deaths.”
Trump’s threat to halt sanctuary cities has brought unease to immigrant communities in Denver and Aurora, which are Colorado’s primary sanctuary cities. These cities’ police departments have refused to enforce federal immigration law as they explain that they do not have proper resources and believe that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility, not a state responsibility.
Denver’s mayor Michael Hancock stated in an interview with Denver7 that “[Denver] will still cooperate with agencies and ICE but [the city government] won’t do anything unlawful or unconstitutional.” Denver refuses to hold any inmate longer than their sentence. They have made it clear that they will not follow ICE detainer regulations.
During the week of Oct. 5-9, ICE launched a mission targeting sanctuary cities to apprehend illegal immigrants who had been released by the local and state law enforcement agencies. That week, the agency arrested 25 immigrants in Colorado and 170 immigrants nationwide.
Government agency officials have expressed their frustrations with states that refuse to cooperate with the federal law. Meanwhile, immigration reform organizations have voiced their resentment toward federal immigration actions and have called for alternative immigration mitigation methods.
The acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Chad Wolf, stated, “This campaign would be entirely unnecessary if local leaders would do their jobs and protect their communities by partnering with federal law enforcement. Sanctuary city policies are a threat to the homeland and put the safety of the American people in jeopardy so that certain local politicians can score cheap political points at the cost of American lives and safety.”
John Fabbricatore, ICE field operator in Denver, argued that “local officials continue to let politics get in the way of public safety endangering the very people they say they are protecting. We’ve repeatedly sent our teams into the field to arrest criminals who should have rightfully been handed to us in the safe confines of a jail. Many of these individuals have assault charges and are dangerous to us and the community-at-large.”
On the contrary, Gladdis Ibarra from the Colorado Immigrant Right Coalition, explained that she considers these actions “a political move by the President meant to bully cities who have taken sensible steps to protect themselves and immigrant residents from federal overreach and ICE abuses.” She affirms that “[CIRC] will continue to stand for what’s best for Denver as a whole.”
Jennifer Piper of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) voiced that, “in Denver and across the country, local immigrant and citizen communities stand strong with our elected officials who have created Safe Cities where everyone can contribute to the health of our cities. We demand Congress create a path to citizenship and [rein] in the wasteful and destructive budget increases for ICE.”
Central to this debate is the fact that the GEO Detention Facility in Aurora, which recently had a COVID-19 outbreak, has been criticized by Colorado Immigrant’s rights groups for its negligent treatment of immigrants and multiple deaths. This facility houses the most undocumented people in the State.
The recent Denver arrests mark a clear action on the part of ICE to make a statement on sanctuary cities. In such a tumultuous election season, the President’s attacks on sanctuary cities have effects right in our backyard.