Earlier this summer, President Donald Trump threatened “millions” of undocumented immigrants would be arrested in a crackdown in cities across the nation, including Denver.
In Denver and the region, here’s what’s really happened.
The operation Trump promised — which administration officials scaled back, saying the targeted total would be closer to 2,000 nationally — has netted very few arrests anywhere. The Associated Press confirmed just 35 people nationally have been detained via this operation, and, locally, immigrant rights advocates know of no more than six instances in which Coloradans were detained.
But, in a separate operation between July 7 and 11, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation officers quietly carried out a five-day targeted sweep across Colorado and Wyoming that netted 34 people who will now be deported, ICE officials said.
These 34 were specifically identified as having ignored a final deportation order issued in the past five years and as having been a previously convicted criminal or a current criminal suspect.
“Our professional ICE officers continue to keep our communities safe by removing known criminals from the streets,” said John Fabbricatore, acting field office director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arm in Denver.
“Most of the aliens targeted,” ICE spokeswoman Alethea Smock added in a statement, “had prior criminal histories that included convictions for the following crimes: drug possession, assault, dangerous drugs, illegal entry, larceny, marijuana possession, possessing a weapon, failure to identify and identity theft.”
The agency would not say when or where, specifically, the 34 Colorado and Wyoming arrests happened, nor name any of those detained. Smock said those arrested have been taken to the immigrant detention center in Aurora and that “from there they will be returned to their country of origin.” Nationwide, ICE told the AP, this ERO operation resulted in 899 arrests.
Smock also said ICE delivered 85 “notices of inspection” to businesses in the Denver area that might employ undocumented workers.
ICE would not give names or addresses of the 85 businesses it says were put on notice, but it’s possible the actions could lead to future detainment of undocumented employees because, the agency says, these notices mean “that ICE is going to audit (affected businesses’) hiring records to determine whether they are complying with existing law.”
Starting in June, ahead of an expected increase in ICE activity, Colorado’s immigrant rights advocates and sanctuary networks mobilized like never before, spreading know-your-rights information daily through digital, print and social media, and encouraging anyone with knowledge of possible ICE activity in the region to call the Colorado Rapid Response Network — a dispatch and resource center for immigrants.
Since July 14 — the day that Trump’s promised crackdown was to begin — the network says it has received 329 calls and has sent representatives to investigate at 171 locations all around the state and in parts of southern Wyoming, including in Longmont, Basalt, Aurora, Denver and Cheyenne.
Jordan Garcia, executive director of the American Friends Service Committee in Denver, said those running the network have only confirmed six times since July 14 when ICE did detain at least one person: one happened at a workplace, two happened at apartments and three involved drivers in both residential and commercial areas.
“We didn’t know if we should be anticipating workplace raids, which is a little bit of what we anticipated. That didn’t come to pass,” Garcia said. “We also thought that people would be taken from their homes more frequently than they were.”
He and others credit unprecedented community preparedness and rights education for fewer-than-expected arrests since July 14. Many who see themselves as possible targets have also been extra cautious in recent weeks, staying indoors as much as possible and often avoiding driving.
ICE has promised to remain vigilant. Records show immigration enforcement agents arrested an average of 228 people in Denver per month through March of this year. Unlike the 34 people targeted this month in Colorado and Wyoming, these arrestees don’t necessarily have criminal records and are not always marked for deportation. Many bond out of detention and return to their Colorado communities.
Monthly arrest totals since April have not yet been released.
ICE remains frustrated with the Colorado General Assembly’s May passage of House Bill 1124, a heavily debated measure that, among other things, bans law enforcement officers from detaining people beyond their scheduled date of release at the request of ICE.
“Despite the forced lack of cooperation from our Colorado law enforcement partners due to the sanctuary state law,” ERO’s Fabbricatore said, “we continue to enforce immigration laws in a respectful manner.”