Denver’s mayor and City Council have competing ideas over dealing with the feds.
The Denver City Council appears poised to create an ordinance that would become the city’s most formal effort to block federal immigration enforcement. Seven council members on Wednesday supported establishing barriers between local law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
The proposed ordinance, introduced last month, was approved by a council committee amid cheers and applause from a packed room of supporters. After revisions, it will be introduced to the full council Aug. 21. A public hearing is scheduled Aug. 28.
Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Hancock’s staff said he is forging ahead with an executive order that also would step up resistance to a crackdown on illegal immigration and create an immigrant legal defense fund probably supported by philanthropists. The mayor’s office does not have a timeline for finalizing the executive order, his spokeswoman said.
Both proposals are clear attempts to push against the Trump administration’s policies combating illegal immigration, although no elected official has shown a willingness to publicly declare Denver a sanctuary city.
The ordinance’s most significant provision would prohibit the Denver Sheriff Department from notifying ICE when it is about to release an inmate who is wanted on a federal immigration detainer. Deputies now notify ICE via fax when an inmate with a detainer is being released, but they do not hold inmates an extra 48 hours to wait for ICE to pick them up.
After critics expressed concern that immigrants who may be national security threats could be released from custody, the bill’s sponsors, council members Robin Kniech and Paul Lopez, added a clause that says deputies would notify the Department of Homeland Security’s investigative division before inmates are released.
Other changes introduced Wednesday clarify the relationship between Denver law enforcement and federal authorities — changes that were requested by Denver police. For example, the ordinance specifies that Denver police may participate in joint federal law enforcement activities, such as drug busts, where ICE agents may be present.
All 13 council members attended Wednesday’s hearing, and based on their public comments, it appears Kniech and Lopez have the seven votes needed to pass the ordinance. Some members expressed concern about the dueling immigration policies coming out of the mayor’s office and the council’s chambers, and they encouraged a joint discussion.
Both proposals could become city policy or the mayor could alter his proposal to complement the council’s ordinance. The mayor also could veto a council ordinance, although his spokeswoman would not discuss that possibility.
“We’re not in competition with City Council,” said Jenna Espinoza, a spokeswoman for Hancock.
Kniech said the mayor did not say how he wants to proceed, nor share a draft of the executive order with the public.
The widest chasm between the two proposals is whether Denver sheriff’s deputies should notify ICE agents of an inmate’s pending release.
A week after Kniech and Lopez introduced their ordinance, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his agency would no longer grant money to cities who denied ICE agents’ access to their jails or failed to give advance notice of inmates’ releases.
In an interview with The Denver Post, the mayor’s staff said they were trying to straddle a line that would provide safeguards without provoking President Donald Trump’s administration to increase enforcement efforts in Denver.
City Councilman Paul Kashmann said there was no need to focus on what is coming out of the Trump administration.
“As far as inciting ICE to crack down on our immigrants and refugees, there’s no way to predict what this administration will do,” Kashmann said. “We can’t waste time trying to crystal ball what Washington is going to do. We need to decide what we want to be as a city and take action.”