Denver faith coalition speaks out against anti-immigrant ballot measure

Denver faith leaders rallied with immigrants rights organizers on Monday afternoon in opposition to a ballot initiative targeting undocumented immigrants. Initiative 100, on Denver’s Aug. 12 primary ballot, would require police to impound vehicles of people driving without licenses. A newly formed coalition of faith leaders, called We Believe COLORADO, said that the measure amounts to racial profiling. They described their opposition during a press conference on the steps of the Denver City and County building.

"Justice is not a matter of being legal but of being prevalent," said the Rev. Andrew Simpson, presiding elder with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, standing in front of two dozen protesters carrying signs that read, "Defeat 100! Impounding cars is not the answer" and "Defeat 100! Racial profiling is not God’s will." 

"Initiative 100 takes us back to the good old days in which racial and ethnic profiling were the law of the land," Simpson continued. "We have got to realize that racial profiling destroys the American Dream." 

Simpson was joined by several other Methodist, Islamic, Catholic and Jewish leaders who echoed his concerns. The measure, which was brought forward by a group called the Future Denver Committee, would attach a $2,500 bond to each vehicle impounded. The bond would be held for one year and forfeited completely if a driver without a license operates the vehicle within that period. The text of the initiative specifically mentions undocumented immigrants, saying that "unlicensed drivers including illegal aliens are not eligible for auto insurance and pose a significant danger to the people of the City and County of Denver when driving and must be prohibited from doing so in every way possible."

The Rev. Janet Forbes of the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church said that We Believe COLORADO seeks to "shift the values debate," adding that "people don’t want to go left or right but deeper." "We are here to say ‘no’ to Initiative 100," she said. "In this community no one will suffer discrimination."

City Councilor Paul Lopez cosponsored a Council proclamation against the measure. (Photo/Bob Spencer)

City Councilor Paul Lopez cosponsored

a Council proclamation against the

measure. (Photo/Bob Spencer)

City Councilman Paul Lopez also spoke against the measure, saying that it would waste police resources.

"Rather than dealing with priorities, the police will be waiting for a tow truck," Lopez said. It is already illegal, he noted, to drive without a license. Last year Denver police issued some 20,000 citations for that offense. Police already impound 338 vehicles each month for driving without a license or insurance. A proclamation that Lopez co-sponsored against the initiative passed on 10-to-1 vote at a City Council meeting just after the press conference. Two council members were absent. The last time City Council formally opposed a ballot initiative was in 2004, against a measure that sought to ban circuses in Denver.

At least one proponent of the ballot initiative showed up at the press conference. John Brick, spokesman for the restrictionist Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform, passed out literature in support of the initiative, saying it is meant "to address the fact that illegal aliens are driving without licenses." "Insurance for illegal aliens is get out and run," he said.

Monday’s press conference is only the beginning of a hurried effort to convince Denverites to vote "no" on the initiative. At 9:30 Wednesday morning, opponents will gather outside of the St. Francis Center at 2323 Curtis St. in Denver for another press event.

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Naomi Zeveloff

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