The Post ed­i­to­rial: City ICE plan goes too far

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST -

Since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump took of­fice promis­ing to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, Den­ver city of­fi­cials — from Mayor Michael Han­cock on down — have been in­creas­ingly ag­gres­sive in try­ing to pro­tect res­i­dents here il­le­gally.

We’ve gen­er­ally been sup­port­ive of those ef­forts. Most re­cently we backed the suc­cess­ful pas­sage of re­forms to city rules that make it less likely that low-level of­fend­ers at­tract at­ten­tion of Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents. De­trac­tors will say such stances are soft-headed and ob­struc­tion­ist. The in­tent is to keep the peace. Height­ened de­por­ta­tion ef­forts among vul­ner­a­ble in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies keep vic­tims and wit­nesses of crime silent, which is hardly a dy­namic re­spon­si­ble po­lice de­part­ments would rel­ish.

That said, a new pro­posal by two City Coun­cil mem­bers goes too far and would put the public at risk.

As re­ported by The Den­ver Post’s Noelle Phillips, Robin Kniech, who rep­re­sents the city at large, and Paul Lopez, who rep­re­sents Dis­trict 3, have drafted a pro­posed or­di­nance that would stop jail­ers from co­op­er­at­ing with ICE agents in two sig­nif­i­cant ways. We hope fel­low coun­cil mem­bers step off the anti-Trump band­wagon long enough to fully con­sider the im­pli­ca­tions.

Presently, Den­ver jail­ers have a strained but func­tion­ing — or, at least, near-func­tion­ing — re­la­tion­ship with ICE agents. Fed­eral agents visit the jail to con­duct in­ter­views with sus­pects held there. Jail­ers try to let ICE know when in­mates that their agents wish to hold are to be re­leased. Yes, that’s been a botched process, as we’ll see, but it’s a process that ought to be fixed, not fur­ther com­pli­cated.

The coun­cil mem­bers’ pro­posed fix would break the al­ready strained co­op­er­a­tion by mak­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tion against city law ex­cept in the most egre­gious cases, like those where a would-be de­fen­dant has al­ready been con­victed of se­ri­ous vi­o­lent crimes within the last seven years, con­victed of crimes in­volv­ing gang mem­bers, or is a ter­ror­ism sus­pect.

Kniech and Lopez also would bar jail­house in­ter­views by ICE agents be­yond phone or video calls. Yes, such calls are a com­mon prac­tice, but skilled in­ter­view­ers know in­per­son meet­ings are much more use­ful. It would be a shame to scrap this tool.

You can bet good money that ap­proval by the full coun­cil would grant le­git­i­macy to crit­ics — in­clud­ing U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions — who call Den­ver a sanc­tu­ary city.

An in­escapable and alarm­ing fact loom­ing in the back­ground is that the Den­ver jail has re­leased bad ac­tors ICE wanted to hold. Among them, Ever Valles, now charged with first-de­gree mur­der and rob­bery, and Nor­lan Estrada-Reyes, ac­cused of a hit-and-run that cut short the life of a young Den­ver at­tor­ney.

Valles had been charged but not con­victed of pos­sess­ing a weapon, car theft and elud­ing. Fed­eral agents say he is a known gang mem­ber. Estrada-Reyes’ crim­i­nal back­ground was sparse be­yond il­le­gal re-en­try af­ter de­por­ta­tion. When re­leased, he had been in on sus­pi­cion of driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence.

Kniech and Lopez make many fine ar­gu­ments in press­ing the is­sue. It’s not Den­ver’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­force fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion law. They are right that courts have found it un­con­sti­tu­tional for lo­cal jail­ers to hold those ICE wants for im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tions once they are found in­no­cent, make bail or are oth­er­wise cleared and re­leased. They are right to want to cod­ify other prac­tices meant to pro­tect those here il­le­gally with but mi­nor of­fenses.

But on these two points, this pro­posed or­di­nance goes too far. The mem­bers of The Den­ver Post’s ed­i­to­rial board are Wil­liam Dean Sin­gle­ton, chair­man; Mac Tully, CEO and pub­lisher; Chuck Plun­kett, ed­i­tor of the ed­i­to­rial pages; Me­gan Schrader, ed­i­to­rial writer; and Co­hen Peart, opin­ion ed­i­tor.

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