After Mayor Michael Hancock and seven members of Denver City Council participated in a press conference on August 16 to announce a bill that would limit Denver’s participation in immigration enforcement, there wasn’t much doubt as to whether it would pass the city council.
The bill already represented a compromise between two prior proposals – one from the mayor’s office and one from city council members Robin Kniech and Paul Lopez – which had differed mainly over whether the Denver Sheriff's Department could notify ICE of the release dates of undocumented inmates. At the mayor’s insistence, the compromise bill retained the practice of notifying ICE about jail release dates, but it also included wording from Kniech and Lopez’s proposal that limits all other city employees from communicating with ICE or collecting information about residents’ immigration status.
With the support of Mayor Hancock and a majority of Denver City Council already secured, the bill, called the “Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act,” went to a vote before Denver City Council on Monday night, August 28.
The bill passed 10-0, with three of the councilmembers absent for the vote: Albus Brooks, Christopher Herndon and Mary Beth Susman. Mayor Hancock is expected to sign the bill into law soon, along with an executive order that will create a legal-defense fund for immigrants.
While Monday night’s vote did not come as much of a surprise, there was a question as to the kind of response the measure would receive from the public and from ICE itself.
In the case of the public, not a single person among the dozens that spoke during a public hearing period at Monday’s council meeting came out against the measure. The council chamber even heard from some members of the public who are undocumented, whom councilmember Kniech thanked for their bravery in identifying themselves to support the bill.
A few of the speakers said that the new measure would make them feel safer should they find themselves in the position of needing to contact the Denver Police Department to report a crime.
But ICE feels differently.
On Monday night, the director of ICE’s Denver field office, Jeffrey Lynch, issued this blistering statement:
"By passing this irresponsible ordinance, the City of Denver’s leadership has codified a dangerous policy that deliberately obstructs our country’s lawful immigration system, protects serious criminal alien offenders, and undermines public safety…. Our goal is to build cooperative, respectful relationships with our law enforcement partners. While we will continue our efforts to work with Denver’s city government in support of public safety, it is disappointing that they have taken such an extreme step in the wrong direction."
Lynch adds that ICE believes the ordinance will result in an increase in violent crimes committed by undocumented persons.
In the council chambers on Monday, however, the mood among supporters of the ordinance was optimistic and righteous.
While the bill doesn't become law until it gets Mayor Hancock's signature, city officials such as councilman Lopez were already hailing the council vote as a significant step for Denver. "We are not going to let anyone, not even a sitting U.S. president, not even a rogue agency, coerce us, force us to violate the Constitution and do their dirty work,” he announced.
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