Denver Leaders Roll Out Hardline Sanctuary City Proposal

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Denver City Council and Mayor Michael Hancock announced Wednesday they have reached a compromise on a sweeping sanctuary city proposal that effectively blocks, with one exception, cooperation with immigration authorities.

The new ordinance, which the council plans to introduce on Monday, would codify several municipal polices that already limit the extent to which city employees can collect information about a person’s immigration status. It would also prohibit immigration agents from interviewing criminal alien inmates in city jails without first obtaining a warrant, reports the Denver Post.

The measure’s co-sponsors, Councilman Paul López and Councilwoman Robin Kniech, said their proposal enhances public safety by assuring illegal immigrants that they won’t put themselves at risk of deportation when they interact with city departments.

“This is Denver. We are united, and we will not be bullied or coerced,” López said at a news conference. “Today we hope to clarify what the city is already doing … and to close a few gaps. We must continue to keep Denver safe.”

Lopez and Kniech proposed last month a similar ordinance that would have barred Denver police and sheriff personnel from notifying Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents about the impending release of criminal aliens from jail. The Denver Sheriff Department already refuses to honor ICE immigration detention requests, but jail officials are permitted to tell immigration agents when an inmate wanted on an ICE detainer is about to go free. (RELATED: Denver Moves To Cut Off Communication With ICE)

In a compromise with Hancock, the new proposal would allow jail officials to continue to make notifications to ICE. Hancock had been concerned that banning the practice would cause the Trump administration to send more immigration agents to Denver or cut off federal law enforcement grants. To get Lopez and Kniech to drop the provision banning ICE notifications, Hancock agreed to require Denver jail officials to advise criminal aliens wanted on detainers of their legal rights and to track what happens after they are transferred to ICE custody.

Despite making an exception on ICE notifications, the revised proposal could affect Denver’s eligibility for federal law enforcement grants if it does go into effect. In order to receive money from the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, which funds criminal justice programs and purchases of police equipment, cities must give ICE agents unrestricted access to jail facilities and notify immigration officials 48 hours before they release criminal aliens.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who admonished sanctuary cities on the same day Denver leaders unveiled their new proposal, could move to disqualify Denver on the grounds that it restricts ICE agents’ access to county jails. In 2016, the city and county of Denver received a combined total of $426,590 from the Byrne program, according to DOJ records.

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