GOP candidates for governor aligned against so-called sanctuary cities in Colorado

This week, a spokesman for ICE’s San Francisco division abruptly resigned from the federal immigration agency, saying U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spread falsehoods in the wake of a decision by the mayor of Oakland to warn her community about an impending ICE raid.

Sessions blamed the mayor for “800 wanted criminals that are now at large in that community,” and accused the mayor of “irresponsible action.”

The former ICE spokesman, James Schwab, called the remark “a false statement” because the agency never picks up 100 percent of those it pursues. “And to say they’re a type of dangerous criminal is also misleading,” he said.

According to a 2017 report by the pro-immigration libertarian Cato Institute, “All immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than natives relative to their shares of the population,” and “Even illegal immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans.” Still, a Gallup survey from the same year found nearly half of Americans believe immigrants make “the crime situation” worse.

Schwab’s resignation comes on the heels of the Department of Justice filing a lawsuit against California’s sanctuary policies for three laws the DOJ says hamper federal immigration officials from being able to do their jobs. One of those three laws “restricts the ability of jurisdictions to contract with ICE to house immigrant detainees in local jails.”

In Colorado, the ACLU late last month filed a class action lawsuit against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder for a similar arrangement with ICE. As a rule, Colorado sheriffs do not honor ICE requests to hold anyone beyond their release date without a warrant. In 2014, a federal judge ruled that doing so was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. That same year, the ACLU reported that all counties in Colorado had agreed not to comply with these holds, also known as detainers.

This election season, so-called sanctuary cities have become part of the messaging for some Republican candidates running for the state’s top office in Colorado. Before he dropped out of the governor’s race last month, former Congressman Tom Tancredo said he did not think Republicans running for governor would “take on” the issue of immigration-friendly municipalities that, like Denver, might not honor requests by federal immigration agents to hold suspects in jail beyond their release dates or share information about a suspect’s immigration status with ICE.

He was wrong.

Last week, Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who is running for governor, applauded Sessions for “standing up to lawlessness” in California. She released a statement saying “As governor, I will not allow Colorado to become a sanctuary state,” adding that she would “instruct our state’s law enforcement officials to hold illegal immigrants accountable.”

Coffman doesn’t stand out in the broad Republican field. And according to a recent Magellan Strategies poll, for 43 percent of Republican primary voters, the top issue they want the Republican candidates for governor to address is enforcing immigration laws. This year, the state’s million-plus unaffiliated voters will be able to vote in the party primaries for the first time.

As part of our recent questionnaire to candidates running for governor, we posed this question:

Denver bars city employees, including its police officers, from asking about or sharing anyone’s immigration status (excluding the Denver Sheriff’s Office, and except where already required by state or federal law) Should Colorado cities be allowed to determine their level of cooperation with federal immigration enforcement?

Each of the five Republicans who answered— Doug Robinson, Victor Mitchell, Greg Lopez, Steve Barlock, and Lew Gaiter— said no.

Coffman did not respond to the questionnaire, nor did Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. However, Stapleton, who uses the term “illegal alien,” has previously said as governor he would “not to allow our two largest cities in Colorado to become sanctuary cities” and said he would “pursue every legal avenue possible to make sure that that is not the case.” Meanwhile, a Super PAC-style group supporting Stapleton falsely called Aurora a “sanctuary city” in a recent ad. “The City of Aurora is neither a “sanctuary city” nor a “sanctuary jurisdiction,” members of the Aurora City Council narrowly decided Monday night,” The Aurora Sentinel reported in May. 

Related: Read each candidate’s additional answers to the question

A debate over so-called sanctuary cities is one that played heavily in Virginia’s November governor’s race. The Democrat, Ralph Northam, won, but during the campaign, he had said as governor he would sign a bill to ban sanctuary cities if a city in Virginia tried to become one.

In Colorado, four Democrats— Cary Kennedy, Mike Johnston, Noel Ginsburg and Erik Underwood— said ‘yes’ when asked if Colorado cities should be allowed to determine their level of cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.

Democratic Congressman Jared Polis did not answer directly, but said Colorado’s cities and towns “should not be forced by Washington — or Denver — to use their limited law enforcement resources in this way when that money could be better spent combating violent crime, preventing fires, and keeping our kids safe.”

Democratic Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne also did not answer directly, but said, “Cities like Denver are choosing to protect public safety by respecting the humanity of every person living there, regardless of circumstance. As a local control state, the interests and authority of the local community are always the starting point for this kind of discussion.”

You can read what else the candidates had to say about the issue here.

Photo by Daniel Lobo for Creative Commons on Flickr. 


  1. GRRRREAT news about James Schwab refusing any longer to be a Nazi stormtrooper, stepping out of the department, and being open, somewhat, about his reasons. Now, if only more DHS employees remember they were human beings first, DHS next (except for Thomas Homan who’s a sub-human organism), we might get some humanity moving in this swampy administration.

Comments are closed.