Mayor Michael Hancock at the bill signing on August 31.EXPAND
Mayor Michael Hancock at the bill signing on August 31.
Chris Walker

Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill

Immigration enforcement is an especially contentious issue right now, and it should come as no surprise that Denver’s recent decision to pass an ordinance that limits the city’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement has drawn divided responses from Denver residents.

We wanted to know what Denverites have been telling the city about said ordinance, so we sent an open-records request to Mayor Michael Hancock's office.

In response, we received 104 individual comments submitted through the city’s website, denvergov.org, as well as summaries compiled by the mayor's office about the number of calls it has received directly or through 311.

The summaries include a general breakdown of the topics that people are contacting the city about, as well as how many people support or oppose specific measures.

Below is the citizen feedback summary for the week preceding Mayor Hancock’s signing of the immigration bill, titled the Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act, on August 31:

Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill
CORA Response

According to the data table, the city received 33 calls and 66 emails related to the immigration bill. The table notes that most were in opposition to the measure: “90% Oppose [Executive Order]/Public Safety Act/Sanctuary City Label.”

Curiously, that amount of opposition — 90 percent of calls and emails — is the exact amount of support the city received in January in response to Mayor Hancock’s remarks about sanctuary cities, when 90 percent of constituents said they supported the mayor’s video statement. “If being a sanctuary city means that we value taking care of one another, and welcoming refugees and immigrants, then I welcome the title,” he said in the video.

Jenna Espinoza, Mayor Hancock's deputy communications director, notes that the city does not track whether the feedback is actually coming from Denverites or people outside of Denver. She also says that the numbers aren't necessarily reflective of what the majority of Denver thinks. "It's more often than not that we hear from people that are outraged than supportive about any particular topic," she points out.

But one observation that can be made from the 104 messages we received in our open-records request is the ubiquity of the term “sanctuary city,” especially as used by those in opposition to the city’s recent actions on immigration. More than half of the messages use the words “sanctuary city.”

This comes despite constant efforts by Mayor Hancock and other city officials to distance themselves from the term, which has no formal legal definition. Nowhere in the new immigration bill are the words “sanctuary city.” Even so, many who oppose the city’s actions seem to think that Denver has formally declared itself a sanctuary city: 

Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill
CORA Response
Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill
CORA Response
Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill
CORA Response

Other people opposed to the new immigration measures say they don’t want their tax dollars being used to buttress Denver’s new legal defense fund for immigrants, which Hancock enacted through executive order.

Details about the fund have yet to be finalized, and Hancock’s executive order only states that “potential funding streams” will come from “public and private sources.” But some made clear that they don’t want their tax dollars used in any way:

Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill
CORA Response
Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill
CORA Response

Other messages of opposition include a healthy dose of sarcasm:

Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill
CORA Response
Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill
CORA Response

But for all the vitriol, many people, including some immigrants, declared strong support for Denver's stance on immigration. Here are a handful of messages in support of Denver's new immigration ordinance:

Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill
CORA Response
Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill
CORA Response
Denver Is Bitterly Divided Over New Immigration Bill
CORA Response

What do you think of the new immigration ordinance that limits cooperation with ICE?

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