Ramp­ing up a re­sis­tance

The mayor is work­ing on an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to keep jail deputies from help­ing the feds ar­rest wanted in­mates.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Jon Mur­ray and Noelle Phillips

Den­ver Mayor Michael Han­cock is pre­par­ing an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that would step up the city’s re­sis­tance to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s crack­down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and cre­ate an im­mi­grant le­gal de­fense fund, his ad­vis­ers con­firmed Tues­day.

To un­der­line Den­ver’s stance, the new le­gal fund — op­er­at­ing mostly off do­na­tions to pro­vide grants to non­prof­its that aid im­mi­grants fac­ing re­moval pro­ceed­ings — would op­er­ate through Jan. 20, 2021, the last day of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cur­rent term.

Han­cock’s draft ex­ec­u­tive or­der, which his staff pro­vided to The Den­ver Post, would make clear that lo­cal law en­force­ment and jail deputies can­not aid in the en­force­ment of fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion laws. It would bar them from al­low­ing fed­eral Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment of­fi­cers into se­cure ar­eas of jails and other build­ings to ar­rest im­mi­grants with­out a war­rant, and they would not be al­lowed to main­tain writ­ten in­for­ma­tion about for­eign na­tion­als be­ing held in lo­cal jails.

But the mayor’s at­tempt to el­e­vate city poli­cies and prac­tices and even stake out some new ground to pro­tect the rights of im­mi­grants liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally has re­vealed a de­vel­op­ing rift with some City Coun­cil mem­bers.

For two weeks, two mem­bers have been float­ing a pro­posal that would tackle sim­i­lar ob­jec­tives — and take tougher po­si­tions on in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment — us­ing the dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cle of a city or­di­nance. They see that as a firmer change than an or­der that Han­cock’s suc­ces­sor could re­verse with the stroke of a

pen.

Coun­cil mem­bers Robin Kniech and Paul López af­firmed Tues­day that they don’t plan to drop their ef­fort.

Com­mu­nity groups and ad­vo­cates who have pushed the city to bet­ter pro­tect im­mi­grants, in­clud­ing by work­ing with the coun­cil mem­bers, ap­plauded the mayor’s at­ten­tion. But sev­eral said his ex­ec­u­tive or­der was not strong enough.

“We’ve been try­ing to have this con­ver­sa­tion with the mayor, but he hasn’t tried to en­gage with us to solve the prob­lem,” said Sal­vador Her­nan­dez of Mi Fa­milia Vota, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that ad­vo­cates for Lati­nos on so­cial and eco­nomic is­sues. “We’re still go­ing to push for a city or­di­nance, which we think is the ap­pro­pri­ate way to do it.”

By un­veil­ing his own ac­tion via ex­ec­u­tive or­der in­stead, Han­cock is stop­ping short of some calls to end all co­op­er­a­tion with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion is at­tempt­ing to strad­dle a line that Den­ver’s deputy city at­tor­ney char­ac­ter­ized as safe­guard­ing tan­gi­ble pro­tec­tions for im­mi­grants while avoid­ing stands that would in­vite Trump to “dou­ble down on Den­ver and send in mass ICE raids.”

“For us, it’s crit­i­cal that the com­mu­nity know that we stand with them and that they be able to trust the city and law en­force­ment and all of our part­ners,” Cristal DeHer­rera said in an in­ter­view Tues­day morn­ing with The Post.

Han­cock hasn’t signed the draft or­der but could do so in com­ing weeks af­ter reach­ing out to im­mi­grant ad­vo­cates, Latino com­mu­nity groups and oth­ers for feed­back on the doc­u­ment, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said.

Mean­while, the coun­cil’s safety com­mit­tee is set to hav­ing an­other hearing on the López/Kniech leg­is­la­tion at 10:30 a.m. Wed­nes­day. The meet­ing will in­clude time for more pub­lic tes­ti­mony.

Key dif­fer­ence

Un­like the coun­cil’s pro­posed or­di­nance, Han­cock’s draft or­der would not bar jail deputies from no­ti­fy­ing fed­eral au­thor­i­ties in most cases when an in­mate wanted on an im­mi­gra­tion de­tainer is about to be re­leased from jail, as the jail does now.

Of­ten those no­ti­fi­ca­tions come within hours be­fore the re­lease — less time than ICE has re­quested — and the city for three years hasn’t hon­ored fed­eral re­quests to de­tain in­mates be­yond their nor­mal re­lease dates.

Last week, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions threat­ened to dis­qual­ify such cities from re­ceiv­ing some large fed­eral grants if they do not pro­vide ad­vance no­tice of jail re­leases and don’t al­low ICE agents ac­cess to in­ter­view in­mates who lack le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus. Den­ver does both of those things, but for the last two years the jail has given in­mates a doc­u­ment ad­vis­ing them that they can refuse ICE in­ter­view re­quests — a prac­tice in­cor­po­rated in de­tail into Han­cock’s pro­posed ex­ec­u­tive or­der.

Julie Gon­za­les, pol­icy di­rec­tor for the Meyer Law Of­fice, which has han­dled high-pro­file lo­cal im­mi­gra­tion cases, said she pre­ferred the coun­cil’s pro­posed or­di­nance be­cause it would go fur­ther in lim­it­ing the co­or­di­na­tion be­tween ICE and Den­ver law en­force­ment, in­clud­ing by elim­i­nat­ing most re­lease no­ti­fi­ca­tions.

“There’s quite a bit of day­light be­tween the two,” Gon­za­les said of the or­di­nance and the ex­ec­u­tive or­der.

Both the coun­cil’s pro­posal and the mayor’s po­ten­tial or­der grew out of of­fi­cials’ at­tempts to ad­dress com­mu­nity fears about rampedup de­por­ta­tions and im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy pro­nounce­ments since Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion in Jan­uary.

But the mayor’s of­fice hopes to avoid mak­ing Den­ver a fed­eral target.

“That is a hard line to walk, but we’re com­mit­ted to it,” DeHer­rera said. “That is the mayor’s goal.”

The coun­cil mem­bers see it dif­fer­ently.

“We re­cently learned from the mayor’s of­fice that they are con­sid­er­ing is­su­ing an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to cod­ify many of the prac­tices the city al­ready does regarding pub­lic safety,” López and Kniech said in a state­ment to The Post. “We do not be­lieve that their draft ac­cu­rately does that or that it goes far enough to en­sure greater safety for our Den­ver res­i­dents.”

Ul­ti­mately, they said, their coun­cil col­leagues will “ask ques­tions and de­bate the is­sues to come up with the best solution for Den­ver.”

Vi­o­la­tion of or­der

If signed by Han­cock, the or­der would mark the un­usual step of mak­ing city em­ploy­ees who vi­o­late its di­rec­tives “sub­ject to dis­ci­pline up to and in­clud­ing ter­mi­na­tion.”

The ex­ec­u­tive or­der would give the force of law to cur­rent prac­tices and poli­cies in the jus­tice sys­tem and in other ar­eas af­fect­ing im­mi­grants, while im­ple­ment­ing sev­eral new poli­cies.

Here are some of the draft’s pro­vi­sions:

•Fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers could not en­ter se­cure ar­eas of lo­cal jails or other city-owned law en­force­ment fa­cil­i­ties in or­der to take cus­tody of an in­di­vid­ual on an im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tion. How­ever, agents still could en­ter pub­lic spa­ces of court­houses and other build­ings. ICE has re­buffed lo­cal of­fi­cials’ re­quest not to do so de­spite con­cerns that agents’ pres­ence could scare away im­mi­grants from tes­ti­fy­ing in tri­als or show­ing up for court dates.

•The sher­iff’s depart­ment this spring stopped keep­ing records of its no­ti­fi­ca­tions to for­eign con­sulates when their na­tion­als were in jail cus­tody. Deputies now make those no­ti­fi­ca­tions ver­bally.

•The city would con­tinue “to pro­tect vic­tims of crime and hold vi­o­lent of­fend­ers ac­count­able” by par­tic­i­pat­ing in a fed­eral U-Visa pro­gram that pro­vides as­sur­ances to vic­tims who aid pros­e­cu­tion of crimes.

•Den­ver Hu­man Ser­vices would con­tinue work­ing with for­eign con­sulates to as­sist fam­i­lies that are fac­ing de­por­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings so that the child has a guardian and, if nec­es­sary, vis­i­ta­tion rights with the de­ported par­ent.

Us­ing an ex­ec­u­tive or­der “gives us the nim­ble­ness to deal with Jeff Ses­sions (and) the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion,” DeHer­rera said. “I mean, we now have the di­rec­tor of Home­land Se­cu­rity (John Kelly) as chief of staff (to Trump). We don’t know what’s go­ing to come out next week, and we need to have a nim­ble ve­hi­cle to best pro­tect Den­ver fam­i­lies. And an XO (ex­ec­u­tive or­der) gives us the abil­ity to do that.”

DeHer­rera cred­ited Coun­cil­man López for push­ing for the le­gal de­fense fund that the or­der seeks to set up with part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tions. Sev­eral U.S. cities re­cently have es­tab­lished funds or pro­grams to help im­mi­grants with le­gal ser­vices, in­clud­ing Bos­ton, Chicago, Los An­ge­les and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., ac­cord­ing to re­search pro­vided by the mayor’s of­fice.

So far, Den­ver of­fi­cials haven’t set a fundrais­ing target and said they could con­sider sup­ple­ment­ing the fund with city money.

But Her­nan­dez, of Mi Fa­milia Vota, ar­gued that the lack of a firm fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment from the city made him skep­ti­cal the le­gal de­fense fund would hap­pen.

Other moves

The or­der would build on a move in May by the mayor and the coun­cil to re­duce low-level city court sen­tences in a way that could help fi­nan­cially needy im­mi­grants avoid de­por­ta­tion.

While Han­cock hasn’t taken a po­si­tion on the coun­cil pro­posal, it’s clear he prefers the ex­ec­u­tive or­der ap­proach.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion pre­vi­ously sent a memo to the coun­cil out­lin­ing Han­cock’s con­cerns, in­clud­ing: “Adopt­ing broad pro­hi­bi­tions on our com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­ter­ac­tions with fed­eral au­thor­i­ties, with only lim­ited ex­cep­tions, ig­nores the com­plex­i­ties of law en­force­ment and does not ac­count for myr­iad fact­spe­cific cir­cum­stances, thus po­ten­tially lim­it­ing the abil­ity of lo­cal law of­fi­cers to keep the pub­lic safe.”

Last month, the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form also crit­i­cized the coun­cil pro­posal, with a spokesman ar­gu­ing the changes were mo­ti­vated by pol­i­tics rather than ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit­ing the po­lice-com­mu­nity re­la­tion­ship.

A risk in­her­ent in Han­cock’s ap­proach is that a new mayor could re­scind his ex­ec­u­tive or­der with­out a vote of the coun­cil, although such changes have been rare.

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