ICE Is Heating Up: A Rundown of Immigration Stories Rocking Colorado

ICE Is Heating Up: A Rundown of Immigration Stories Rocking Colorado
Keeping up with all of the developments around immigration and customs enforcement these days is proving to be quite the task; under the Trump administration, rarely a day goes by when there isn’t some noteworthy action from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or a policy change coming out of Washington, D.C., that could have broad implications for the nation’s immigrant communities.

We explored some of the most important implications for Colorado in last week’s cover story, “Ire and ICE,” which focused on Denver attorney Hans Meyer and his fight for immigrants and sanctuary policies.

But even during the six days since that story was published, there were several significant news items that popped up on the immigration front, both in Colorado and nationwide. Find a quick run-down below:

California’s legislature fires back at Jeff Sessions and John Kelly about ICE being inside courthouses.

One of the most-watched feuds concerning immigration enforcement has been between California officials and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. It began when the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court sent Sessions and Kelly a letter asking that ICE agents stop “stalking” the hallways of courthouses because the presence of immigration agents is obstructing local cases and scaring away witnesses. Sessions and Kelly wrote back on March 29, taking offense at the use of “stalking” and defending the deployment of ICE agents in courthouses by claiming that it’s safer to make arrests there since everyone has to enter through secure screening.

That wasn’t the last word, however; last week, the Los Angeles Times published the latest letter in what’s turning out to be a heated back-and-forth battle of words between California officials and Trump’s cabinet picks. In the letter, a law firm employed by the California Legislature, Covington and Burling LLP, tells Sessions and Kelly that their March 29 response to California’s chief justice was filled with false accusations that California’s policies are endangering its residents. The law firm challenged Sessions and Kelly to prove how California was not in compliance with federal law.

“The administration’s unnecessary and repeated assaults on the policies of California, its counties, and its cities are deeply unsettling,“ the letter reads.

Now the ball is back in Sessions's and Kelly's court. Will California's tough talk bring retribution from the feds? Eyes around the country are trained on the fight. ICE agents are also operating inside Denver’s courthouses, as evidenced by a video captured by the Meyer Law Office.

ICE temporarily suspends publishing its weekly list of non-compliant jurisdictions.

Debates about what constitutes a so-called sanctuary city have been raging ever since President Trump signed an executive order on January 25 that threatens to pull federal funding from jurisdictions that aren’t cooperating with immigration enforcement.

Part of the executive order promised a weekly report, published on ICE’s website, listing non-compliant law enforcement agencies with a focus on “declined detainers” – when local jails refuse ICE’s requests to hold on to suspected undocumented inmates past the end of their sentences.

ICE followed through by publishing three weekly reports between January 28 and February 17, but the reports proved to be extremely controversial. Not only do many believe that detainer requests are unconstitutional (federal courts have ruled that local jurisdictions need not comply with the requests unless presented with a warrant), but representatives from law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff’s departments of Denver and Jefferson counties, claimed that the reports contained errors.

In the case of Denver, one of the ICE reports showed that Denver sheriffs did not notify ICE of a release date for an inmate – which is public information – while Denver’s records show that ICE had indeed received notice.

Admitting to problems with its information-gathering, ICE is now suspending its publication of the reports indefinitely, but has promised to renew the practice after fixing some “data processing errors.”

When Westword first asked Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s office about the practice, mayoral spokeswoman Amber Miller equated the reports with “bullying.”

Maria de Jesus Jimenez-Sanchez - GROUNDSWELL ONLINE PETITION
Maria de Jesus Jimenez-Sanchez
Groundswell Online Petition
ICE arrests an undocumented mother of four from Aurora during a routine check-in.

On Wednesday, April 12, a mother of four named Maria de Jesus Jimenez-Sanchez was arrested by ICE officers during a routine check-in at an ICE field office in Centennial.

According to Jimenez-Sanchez’s lawyer, Jennifer Kain-Rios, she had been complying with ICE check-ins for four years and had no criminal history beyond driving without a license.

“ICE Denver Field Office’s decision to detain Maria de Jesus Jimenez-Sanchez is wrong. It is a misdirection of enforcement and detention resources,” Kain-Rios said in a statement. “Maria de Jesus does not pose any threat to the community.”

The case is an example of how ICE is expanding its deportation priorities under the Trump administration to include anyone who is undocumented, regardless of their criminal history.

In many ways, Jimenez-Sanchez’s case parallels that of Jeanette Vizguerra, another mother of four who is currently taking sanctuary in a Denver church after a stay of her deportation expired; her story has reached audiences across the globe. Vizguerra has been in sanctuary since February 15, after fearing that her stay of deportation would not be renewed and she’d be arrested at an ICE check-in.

Jimenez-Sanchez also had a stay of removal expire, but unlike Vizguerra, she tried to go to the ICE field office to renew the stay and was subsequently arrested.

“Maria de Jesus complied with her check-in appointment yesterday, because she hoped that ICE would restrain itself,” Kain-Rios said. “We ask ICE to reconsider the denial of Maria de Jesus’s stay of removal.”

An online petition asking for as much has been created online by Jennifer Piper of the American Friends Service Committee.
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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