Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have arrested eight clients of the Office of Denver Adult Probation this year, most recently on June 6, according to records obtained by Westword. In each instance, the probation office in Denver has assisted the feds by escorting the unwitting probationer to an out-of-sight conference room, where ICE agents are waiting to make their arrest. Once ICE agents apprehend their target, the probation office allows the agents to exit its fifth-floor location in a building along Colfax Avenue via an emergency stairwell, where, according to an internal memo, “they will exit the building in an attempt to not draw attention to themselves or their presence at the probation office.”
Westword first reported on this secretive practice in November after we obtained a Denver probation memo called “immigration status.” The revelation drew immediate concerns from immigration attorneys, who pointed out that, similar to ICE's undercover courthouse arrests, allowing the federal agents to operate in a probation department could undermine probationers' trust in the judicial system and dissuade them from participating in the rehabilitative process. In late January, citing Westword's reporting, the Colorado Democratic Latino Caucus sent a letter to the chief justice of the state's Supreme Court demanding that all state-run probation offices stop voluntarily assisting federal immigration enforcement.
In its letter, the caucus noted, “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."
But new data shows that the process hasn't stopped. Two individuals whose misdemeanors do not rise to the level of felony convictions, which ICE itself has suggested as a prerequisite for undercover courthouse arrests (though our reporting last year showed that ICE was also breaking its own guidelines by staging courthouse arrests of non-citizens with misdemeanors), were even taken into custody.
Here is the latest data on arrests at the Office of Denver Adult Probation:
ICE makes arrests at other probation offices in Colorado, including in Adams, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties, according to information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request that detailed some of the agency's arrests in Colorado from October 2016 to May 2017.
But among those county offices, only the Office of Denver Adult Probation keeps its own records of ICE arrests, says Rob McCallum, spokesman for the Colorado Judicial Department, which oversees Denver's probation office.
There have been slight changes in the Denver probation office's protocol since our original story ran in November. These revisions could have been influenced by a meeting in late 2017, when Denver District Attorney Beth McCann met with the head of the Office of Denver Adult Probation to raise concerns about its interactions with ICE. But neither McCann's office nor the City of Denver — which implemented a strict policy of non-communication with ICE (unless presented with a warrant) in August — actually has any jurisdiction over the adult p officerobation, which falls under the state judiciary. McCann did, according to a spokesman, “express her opinion that the policy seemed to put probationers in a catch-22 position. If they show up for their probation appointment as required, they'd be deported. If, out of fear of being deported, they don't show up for their probation appointment, they are violating the terms of the sentence imposed by a court and an arrest warrant is issued for violation of the terms of their sentence/probation.”
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Within a month of that meeting, the Office of Denver Adult Probation revised its “immigration status” memo. The most notable change is that, during pre-sentence investigations, employees are are no longer required to report clients to ICE if the probationer states that he or she is undocumented or was born outside the U.S. Rather than go to ICE directly, the new policy directs employees to note that a client is undocumented in a pre-sentence investigation report — and only if that information comes to the probation department's attention via another law enforcement agency or is mentioned in a probationer's court records.
In addition, the Office of Denver Adult Probation split its old “immigration status” memo into two directives: S043 and S045. S045 still details the surreptitious arrest protocol, involving the out-of-sight conference room and emergency staircase, only the new version removes any references to ICE or immigration, instead using the more general term “outside agencies.” The new S043 describes the less-strict reporting protocol we mentioned above. McCann's spokesman says that he can't confirm whether her meeting led to the policy changes.
Immigration attorneys are still pushing for much less cooperation with ICE from the probation department, arguing that unless ICE comes to the department with a signed judicial warrant, there is no legally binding reason to help it. McCallum can't confirm whether ICE had presented warrants for its arrests at the Denver probation office.