Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a dramatic Weld County raid on tax records last year violated the Fourth Amendment, which guards the right to privacy. The raid, dubbed Operation Numbers Game, was instigated by Weld County District Attorney (and U.S. Senate candidate) Ken Buck, along with Weld County Sheriff John Cooke. It was an attempt to use tax returns to search out suspected illegal immigrants.
The decision has nationwide implications, noted the Associated Press:
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Numbers Game,” marked the first and only time in the U.S. that authorities used tax returns, which are confidential under federal law, to prosecute suspected illegal immigrants.
A favorable ruling for Weld County could have given prosecutors a new tool to find and prosecute illegal immigrants, who are required to pay taxes despite their legal status.
Prosecutors in other states had expressed interest in the investigation, a prosecutor said.
Naturally, the decision had immigration rights groups like the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition celebrating. “Today’s ruling confirms Operations Number Games to have been an egregious abuse of power by Weld County officials. Paying taxes is not a crime and should not be made to seem like one,” wrote the group, in response to the ruling.
But strangely, the ruling also had one-time gubernatorial candidate, and anti-immigration advocate, Tom Tancredo claiming it as a boon to anti-illegal immigrant conservatives. In the Washington Times, Tancredo predicted the ruling would help the conservative Clear the Bench campaign in its effort to rid Colorado of liberal justices:
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, blasted the state high court, which he described as “the most liberal” in Colorado history. Only one of the seven justices is viewed as a conservative.
“This state supreme court is by far the most willing to [make findings] based on the strength of the political argument . . . and it’s been that way for years,” Mr. Tancredo said. “The fact that there were two dissenters is amazing and indicates how strong the DA’s case was.”
He noted that conservatives have launched a movement, Clear the Bench Colorado, to oust four of the seven justices in November by urging a “no” vote on their retention. Decisions such as Monday’s ruling are likely to help the campaign’s cause, he said.