ICE could get a cold shoul­der

Den­ver con­sid­ers a plan to no longer no­tify feds when re­leas­ing in­mates.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Noelle Phillips

Un­der a pro­posal in­tro­duced Wednes­day by two Den­ver City Coun­cil mem­bers, the Sher­iff De­part­ment no longer would send no­ti­fi­ca­tion to fed­eral au­thor­i­ties when an in­mate wanted on an im­mi­gra­tion de­tainer is about to be re­leased from jail.

The change could el­e­vate an on­go­ing con­flict be­tween the sher­iff’s de­part­ment and U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment. The two agen­cies have butted heads this year over a sys­tem that al­lows deputies to re­lease from jail, with lit­tle no­tice, peo­ple ICE wants to de­tain.

But two City Coun­cil mem­bers who in­tro­duced a pro­posed Pub­lic Safety En­force­ment Pri­or­i­ties Act said Den­ver does not need to help fed­eral agents do their jobs.

“Their job is to fol­low up on it as to how they see fit,” Coun­cil­woman Robin Kniech said. “The no­ti­fi­ca­tion piece crosses that line. It gets us in­volved in help­ing.”

Kniech and Coun­cil­man Paul Lopez in­tro­duced the four-point pro­posal dur­ing a com­mit­tee meet­ing. For the most part, the pro­posal would cod­ify in a city or­di­nance poli­cies and prac­tices that al­ready are in place.

The two coun­cil mem­bers said they have heard many sto­ries about res­i­dents liv­ing in fear be­cause of in­creased fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment and peo­ple who are in the coun­try il­le­gally who are afraid to at­tend court hear­ings, call 911, take their chil­dren to school or show up for med­i­cal ap­point­ments.

“Un­for­tu­nately, there are a lot of peo­ple still liv­ing in fear,” Lopez said. “It ab­so­lutely is un­ac­cept­able. We hope to clar­ify what our city al­ready is do­ing and fill in those gaps.”

Lopez and Kniech ex­plained the pro­posal to col­leagues and a room full of com­mu­nity ac­tivists. They pitched the ideas as a pub­lic safety is­sue, say­ing they do not want poli­cies to erode the re­la­tion­ships be­tween po­lice and the pub­lic.

Thir­teen peo­ple from var­i­ous com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and churches spoke in fa­vor of the en­force­ment pri­or­i­ties act.

Af­ter a pub­lic hear­ing, coun­cil mem­bers dis­cussed the ideas be­hind closed doors with the city at­tor­ney’s staff. They hope to be­gin the for­mal process of mak­ing it a law on Aug. 2.

Aside from end­ing Den­ver’s co­op­er­a­tion on re­lease no­ti­fi­ca­tions, the pro­posal would:

• Pro­hibit the Sher­iff De­part­ment from hon­or­ing de­tainer re­quests, which ask jails to hold in­mates for an ad­di­tional 48 hours for ICE agents. Den­ver would only hold in­mates if there is an ar­rest war­rant is­sued by a judge or mag­is­trate.

• Pro­hibit em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing po­lice of­fi­cers, from ask­ing peo­ple about their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

• Ban the use of city money or re­sources to as­sist in im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment ac­tions.

Al­ready, three of the four pro­pos­als are in prac­tice. An or­di­nance would make them of­fi­cial, and give the city the right to dis­ci­pline em­ploy­ees who vi­o­late the laws.

For now, the sher­iff’s de­part­ment no­ti­fies ICE of an in­mate’s pend­ing re­lease if ICE has an im­mi­gra­tion de­tainer and asks for no­ti­fi­ca­tion. But the de­part­ment will not hold in­mates be­yond their re­lease time specif­i­cally so agents can pick them up. That means ICE some­times re­ceives no­tice just hours be­fore an in­mate is ready to leave jail.

That pol­icy has led to on­go­ing ten­sion be­tween the sher­iff’s de­part­ment and the ICE field of­fice.

The lat­est flap in­volves Ri­cardo Lopez Vera, an in­mate who was ac­cused of killing a fel­low in­mate in a July 10 fight at the Down­town De­ten­tion Cen­ter. Lopez Vera was not charged in con­nec­tion with the death af­ter the Den­ver District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice de­ter­mined he and Wil­liam An­der­son en­gaged in mu­tual com­bat.

Lopez Vera was be­ing held on war­rants from Adams, Den­ver and Ara­pa­hoe coun­ties, but he posted bond. The sher­iff’s de­part­ment no­ti­fied ICE of Lopez Vera’s pend­ing re­lease, but the in­mate was taken to Den­ver Health Med­i­cal Cen­ter be­cause of med­i­cal is­sues and ul­ti­mately was re­leased from there on July 12.

The two agen­cies have re­leased du­el­ing pub­lic state- ments, each dis­put­ing the other’s time­line of how Lopez Vera’s re­lease unfolded. On Tues­day, ICE agents ap­pre­hended Lopez Vera, and he is in cus­tody pend­ing a hear­ing be­fore a fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion judge, ac­cord­ing to an ICE state­ment.

The sher­iff’s de­part­ment also has taken heat for re­leas­ing Ever Valles in De­cem­ber even though he had an im­mi­gra­tion de­tainer. Valles is charged with first­de­gree mur­der and rob­bery in con­nec­tion with a shoot­ing death in Fe­bru­ary at a light rail sta­tion.

And in Oc­to­ber, Nor­lan Estrada-Reyes, who had been de­ported and re­turned to the United States il­le­gally, was ac­cused of killing a young Den­ver lawyer in a hit-and-run. Estrada-Reyes had been re­leased from the Den­ver jail in 2013 be­fore ICE agents could pick him up, and ICE was never in­formed when he was de­tained on a 2014 charge. He pleaded guilty in Fe­bru­ary to il­le­gally re-en­ter­ing the United States.

Lopez and Kniech said Den­ver would con­tinue to no­tify ICE and hold peo­ple if agents have an ar­rest war­rant is­sued by a judge or mag­is­trate.

Chris Ch­mie­len­ski, di­rec­tor of con­tent and ac­tivism for Num­bers USA, a group that ad­vo­cates for re­duc­ing the num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally, took is­sue with the pro­posed pol­icy re­gard­ing ICE no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

“If there is a manda­tory de­tainer re­quest, we be­lieve they do have to com­ply,” he said.

Lopez and Kniech said noth­ing in their pro­posal would vi­o­late fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion laws, and they in­sisted the pro­posal would not push the city fur­ther to­ward so-called sanc­tu­ary city sta­tus.

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