Surge in Colorado deportations points to national increase in enforcement actions

Recent data shows that Colorado and Wyoming saw a 7 percent increase in deportations of undocumented immigrants in 2007, but the information should come as no surprise because the federal government has been dramatically stepping up enforcement actions, including worksite raids and criminal prosecutions.

Since 2006, workplace raids by federal immigration authorities have dramatically increased in the United States, according to available government data and reports by The Colorado Independent:

Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials reported reported approximately 1,300 worksite arrests in 2005, but the number jumped to more than 4,380 worksite arrests in 2006, more than seven times greater than the total number of individuals arrested in worksite enforcement in 2002. In a continuation of the trend, workplace arrests increased to more than 4,900 in 2007.

The first hint of of the surge to mark Colorado occurred on Dec. 12, 2006, in the northern city of Greeley, when ICE agents raided the national headquarters of the Swift & Company meatpacking plant as part of a operation that netted more than 1,200 arrests from plants in six separate states. The raid came seven months after the May Day marches, and on Our Lady of Guadalupe day, one of the most holiest days in Mexican culture. In Greeley, 261 people were arrested by ICE while immigration attorneys in the area later denounced federal agents for failing to provide information about the location of arrestees and not letting attorneys meet with those who were detained.

Less than three months later, ICE struck again, raiding janitorial crews working at the ESPN Zone restaurant in downtown Denver, along with the two Dave and Busters restaurant locations in the metro area, arresting 12. The coordinated operation resulted in 193 total arrests that took part in early morning hours at 63 entertainment-eateries in 18 states.

In July ICE agents raided a concrete plant in northern Colorado near the city of Loveland, arresting 18 men.

Along with a surge in worksite raids and arrests is an increase in criminal prosecutions against immigrants. Right after the raid against the concrete workers, the Transactional Records Access Clearing house, an organization at Syracuse University that compiles government data, released numbers showing that immigration cases made up 58 percent of all federal criminal prosecutions in April alone, while prosecutions against immigrants increased by 72 percent in a year nationwide.

A privately run ICE prison in the Denver metropolitan area with 400 beds is also expected to nearly quadruple in size by an addition of 1,100 beds. Corrections firm the GEO Group [now indicted  for murder in Texas], a global company that manages the prison, is supporting the expansion with an estimated annual income of $30 million, although ICE has yet to indicate that it will use the space.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at