Im­mi­gra­tion dis­sen­sion

Den­ver’s mayor and City Coun­cil have com­pet­ing ideas over deal­ing with the feds.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Noelle Phillips

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.”

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