Hickenlooper defends Denver against ‘sanctuary city’ charges

Democratic candidate for governor John Hickenlooper defended himself last week against mounting accusations from Republicans that, as mayor, he has run Denver as a so-called sanctuary city, where illegal immigrants are directly and indirectly protected against federal immigration laws and possible deportation. It’s a charge that has gained traction in the weeks since Arizona lawmakers passed a controversial suite of immigration laws and as the move to remake federal immigration policy in Washington heats up.

“The city has never adopted any sort of ‘non-cooperation’ policy in regard to the enforcement of federal immigration laws or communications with federal officials in regard to immigration matters. Denver has and will continue to fully cooperate with and refer cases to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and has always complied with state and federal immigration law,” Eric Brown, spokesperson for the Mayor’s office, wrote to the Colorado Independent in an email.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Scott McInnis and Dan Maes are sure not to be satisfied. They’re following the lead of anti-illegal immigration firebrand and former congressman Tom Tancredo, who has repeatedly made the case that Denver simply won’t enforce the country’s immigration laws.

At the GOP state delegate assembly in May, for example, McInnis used his limited time at the podium to rail against Hickenlooper on immigration.

“When you think of open doors and sanctuary cities, you think Hickenlooper,” he said.

Likewise, on the May 5 Caplis and Silverman Denver talk-radio show, Maes lamented the fact that Hickenlooper had been tarred with vague “claims” but then went on to do the same.

He said he regretted that Hickenlooper has suffered a “number of claims that may or may not be true” but then added that Hickenlooper still must be held responsible for law enforcement lapses.

“On the conservative side of things, people know so much about the sanctuary city concept and the trouble the illegals are causing the city of Denver– some of the serious injuries and deaths that have taken place.”

A letter drafted by Tancredo in 2008 and signed by Republican members of the legislature, including Rep. Cory Gardner and Sens. Dave Schultheis and Josh Penry, stated that Denver was out of compliance with CRS29-29-101, which obligates cities to report arrested illegal aliens to Immigrations and Customs officials whether or not the accused are ever incarcerated.

Last month on the Peter Boyles talk radio show, Tancredo said that Hickenlooper was dodging the sanctuary city charges. “He is being disingenuous, lying,” Tancredo said.

A list of people who have been arrested and referred by the city to Immigration and Customs officials contained 1,853 names for 2009 and 1,793 for 2010 so far.

Brown at the Mayor’s office said the city was in full compliance with the law. Even though the police manual stipulates that responsibility lies with the Sherriff’s department, not the Police force, to notify I.C.E. when illegal immigrants are detained, he said the two departments work in tandem in Denver under the Department of Safet. He said that in fact, in some cases, the Denver Police Department does inform immigration officials directly.

“The statute was written to address the typical situation in Colorado where a municipal police department and a county sheriff’s department are two entirely independent entities,” Brown wrote.

“Under Denver’s home rule charter and city and county structure of government, the police department and the sheriff’s department work together under one coordinated Department of Safety. In practice, under Denver’s system, some reports to ICE are made directly by the Denver Police Department (for example when an arrestee is taken into custody and booked, but not held in the jail), while the majority of reports are made by the Denver Sheriff’s Department for people who are actually incarcerated in the county jail.”

Tancredo said sanctuary policy is de facto law in Denver. He said the city would simply release illegal aliens suspected of robbery or mayhem and not refer them to ICE. .

Yet Denver police guidelines (pdf) are clear. Officers are required by law to refer arrested undocumented immigrants to ICE.

Denver Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Capt. Frank Gale told the Colorado Independent the department regularly refers illegal immigrants to ICE after receiving word from arresting officers and/or if sheriffs suspect arrestees of being in the country illegally.

Gale said he wasn’t sure what Tancredo was talking about and added that immigration status is often indicated by arresting police officers in Denver.

“I know when we get people in, they are either indicated by the arresting officer that there is an immigration piece or, if when we book them there are indicators that they are foreign born and don’t have the proper documentation, then we are going to report that to ICE.”

The Denver Police Handbook states that undocumented and illegal immigrants are the responsibility of Immigrations and Customs officials and, as in Arizona under SB 1070, that Denver Police officers are not supposed to initiate actions with the primary objective of discovering people’s immigration status. Brown said that Colorado Statute codified this practice into law.

“This is no different from arrest policies that exist in police and sheriff’s departments throughout the state. In 2006, with the adoption of Colorado’s SB-90, the state effectively institutionalized the policy statewide.”

According to the Colorado Auditor’s report, SB-90 requires that people arrested in domestic violence cases not be subject to status review.

During a press conference before an oil and gas forum held last Tuesday, Hickenlooper said he supports a strong border and a national identification card that works.

“That will allow us to hold businesses accountable [that jobs] are being taken by people who have the appropriate standing,” he said.

He added, though, that if undocumented immigrants were to wholesale exit the state, Colorado farmers would see costs skyrocket and would be unable to compete with foreign companies.

He said importing food, like importing oil, can help support foreign dictatorships that don’t have the best interest of the U.S. in mind.

“As we work towards a national policy… those are the kinds of issues that are going to have to be addressed,” Hickenlooper said.

Denver Police Operation Manual

Undocumented immigrants (includes illegal and “undocumented aliens” as referred to in the Federal Immigration and Naturalization act)

a.
The responsibility for enforcement of immigration laws rests with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (B.I.C.E.). Denver Police officers shall not initiate police actions with the primary objective of discovering the immigration status of a person.

b.
Generally, officers will not detain, arrest, or take enforcement action against a person solely because he/she is suspected of being an undocumented immigrant. If enforcement action is deemed necessary under these circumstances, the approval of an on duty supervisor or commander is required. In addition, as soon as is practical the commander of the involved officer shall be notified.

c.
However, when a suspect believed to be an undocumented immigrant is arrested for other charges, a “Refer to Immigration” charge will be added to the original charges. Sheriff’s Department Personnel will then notify the B.I.C.E. authorities according to their procedures.

d.
The charge “Hold For Immigration” will be lodged against a prisoner only when a warrant has been issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, or an agency thereof, and then only when the warrant is on an immigration matter.

e.
Physical evidence pertaining to immigration violations shall be placed in the Property Management Bureau as evidence when there is no arrest made. A letter detailing the circumstances of the recovery of the property and the property invoice number shall be sent to the commander of the Crimes Against Persons Bureau for disposition.

f.
All questions pertaining to the handling of immigration related cases shall be directed to the officer’s supervisor and/or commanding officer. In addition, the commander of the Civil Liability Bureau is available for guidance regarding enforcement and non-enforcement immigration matters.

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