Immigrant-rights organizations in Colorado and Wyoming have joined forces to create a 24-hour interstate hotline to report Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids. The two-state network, launched Thursday, August 29, is an outgrowth of the Colorado Rapid Response Network, which has been in operation in Colorado since June 2017.
As we've previously reported, the Colorado hotline uses a team of volunteer dispatchers and “confirmers” — people trained to go out into the field and verify whether an immigration raid by federal agents is, in fact, occurring (or has recently occurred). The Wyoming Rapid Response Network will operate the same way. Both branches share a central phone number (1-844-864-8341), manned around the clock by dispatchers who coordinate with volunteers on the ground to investigate reported ICE operations in both Colorado and Wyoming.
The joint hotline was created to address stepped-up immigration enforcement under the Trump administration and the Jeff Sessions-led Department of Justice. Last December, the ICE field office in Centennial, which oversees operations in Colorado and Wyoming, reported that ICE arrests were up 20 percent in the two-state area in 2017 as compared to 2016. Across the country, ICE arrests were up 40 percent in 2017 compared to 2016.
ICE has proven to be one of the most controversial agencies overseen by the Trump White House. It oversaw some aspects of family separation in recent months, has been staging more arrests inside courthouses, and has infiltrated Denver’s probation office. In response, protesters blocked parking lot entrances to the Centennial field office earlier this month, and far-left political candidates like New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have popularized the contentious "Abolish ICE" platform.
The Colorado Rapid Response Network launched to respond to mounting fear and rumors of ICE operations in Colorado's immigrant communities. “With all the anti-immigrant rhetoric out there, there's a lot of panic in the community," notes organizer Brendan Greene.
Greene says that over fourteen months, the Colorado Rapid Response Network has been instrumental in sorting fact from fiction. The line has received roughly fifty calls reporting raids, of which ten have been confirmed as actual ICE operations.
“Luckily, a large percentage of the calls we get don't end up being ICE raids,” says Greene. "Of the ten confirmed calls that we had, we saw three home raids, three reports of courthouse arrests, a couple workplace arrests, one report of someone being detained in the street and one report of someone being detained at a jail."
He adds, “They're from all across Colorado. We've had calls from the Pueblo area, from the Longmont area, as well as Aurora reports and Denver reports.”
Last summer pranksters trolled the hotline, calling in to report fake raids, yelling phrases like "Build the Wall!," or even arguing immigration issues with dispatchers. "The number of prank calls has dropped off," Greene says.
Greene explains that the idea to join forces with immigrant advocates in Wyoming was hatched when representatives from the Wyoming-based organization Juntos reached out to the hotline operators in Colorado earlier this year requesting information about how to set up their own ICE hotline.
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“So we met up [with Juntos] in northern Colorado a couple months back,” Greene recalls. “And the more we talked about it, the more we realized that it would make more sense to connect our networks rather than build separate networks, mainly because we know our ICE field office covers both Colorado and Wyoming, and a centralized intake system and database would allow us to better work together to identify patterns of ICE abuse."
The hotline branch in Wyoming is much smaller than Colorado’s, consisting of just twenty “confirmers” and other legal observers. But Greene says that more volunteers will be trained to join Colorado’s 250, which include 28 dispatchers.
In addition to verifying ICE raids — and issuing warnings on social media if one is confirmed — Greene says the network's volunteers investigate previous ICE operations, gathering information about who was impacted and whether federal agents committed legal abuses, then relay that information to immigration lawyers who may be able to assist defendants.
Fifteen minutes into Westword’s conversation with Greene, he abruptly said he had to go. “I just missed a call,” he said. “I’m actually on dispatcher duty right now.”