Stop Probation Offices From Colluding With ICE, Lawmakers Tell State Supreme Court

Stop Probation Offices From Colluding With ICE, Lawmakers Tell State Supreme Court
Jay Vollmar
In November, Westword revealed that the Denver Office of Adult Probation had given a memo to its employees laying out a twelve-step procedure for facilitating undercover arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

The procedure included instructions to escort ICE agents to a special conference room where they could handcuff targets, then allow them to leave the office on Colfax Avenue via a particular stairwell so that other probation clients would be unaware of any unusual activity. The memo also recommended that probation employees report suspected undocumented clients to the feds.

Our article and the revelation of the memo immediately drew the ire of immigration lawyers and state lawmakers, who claimed that the probation office has no business colluding with ICE unless its agents produce a signed judicial warrant.

Now a group of Colorado lawmakers is taking things a step further.

On Tuesday, January 30, the Colorado Democratic Latino Caucus, which comprises both House and Senate representatives, sent a letter to the Chief Justice of Colorado's Supreme Court, Nancy Rice, demanding that all state-run probation offices cease voluntary assistance with federal immigration enforcement.

"We believe these policies and related procedures subvert the goals of probation and access to justice, and jeopardize community safety," the letter states. "We request that you [Chief Justice Nancy Rice], through the Chief Judge in each Judicial District, cease facilitation of any further arrests by ICE in our state probation offices."

The letter (which is embedded at the bottom of this article) goes on to make claims of collusion, and explains that arresting people who have been assigned to probation is problematic, because a judge has already determined that the individual should be rehabilitated and can reintegrate into society. 

"These recent events have shown that personnel in select state probation offices are willfully overstepping Colorado court authority and acting as an arm of federal immigration policy," the letter continues. "Personnel in these offices are engaging in active collusion with ICE by employing subversive and discriminatory practices against their service users. [A] sentencing judge should be fully aware of an individual’s immigration status and has still chosen to grant probation. The judge has, after much consideration, decided that the public would be best served by placing the individual on a path of recovery and ultimately returning the individual to the community. So it would appear that the [Office of Denver Adult Probation], a lesser body, is choosing to undermine state judicial authority and independently decide a person’s fate."

The letter to the Colorado Supreme Court was announced at a press conference Tuesday morning. The Meyer Law Office streamed a live video of the conference on its Facebook page, which can be seen below:

Among those who spoke at the Capitol Building on Tuesday morning was Representative Adrienne Benavidez, the main signatory of the letter, as well as representatives Joe Salazar and Dan Pabon.

The other members of the Colorado Democratic Latino Caucus listed on the letter are Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, Representative Donald Valdez, and senators Irene Aguilar, Leroy Garcia and Dominick Moreno.

Westword reached out to the Colorado Judicial Branch and received the following response from Deputy Public Information Officer Jon Sarché:

"The Colorado Judicial Department is complying with state and federal law in dealing with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other law enforcement agencies. Information given to ICE upon its requests would be available to any member of the public. We will continue to work with the General Assembly and the Colorado Democratic Latino Caucus to address concerns."

Below is the full letter sent to Rice by the Colorado Democratic Latino Caucus:

Colorado Democratic Latino Caucus Letter to Chief Justice Rice

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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker