Trump Immigration Officials Blast Denver Over Release of Detainees

The Trump administration recently targeted Denver and Colorado in an immigration enforcement operation.
The Trump administration recently targeted Denver and Colorado in an immigration enforcement operation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Two and a half weeks before the election, top Trump administration officials in charge of immigration enforcement blasted Denver and other cities for their unwillingness to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Sanctuary city policies shield violent criminals, criminal aliens, at the expense of American lives," Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said at an October 16 press conference announcing results of a recent ICE enforcement operation that targeted jurisdictions covered by field offices in Denver (which oversees Colorado and Wyoming), Philadelphia, New York, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

The operation had been telegraphed by the Washington Post, which reported on September 29 that the Trump administration was preparing an "immigration enforcement blitz" that would start in California and then expand to other places, including Denver.

Just days later, the Trump administration announced arrest results from an operation in California. Last week, there was action in Colorado: An ICE operation from October 5 through 9 led to the arrest of 25 undocumented immigrants in the state. Local ICE officials say that the operation was focused on immigrants arrested for crimes but subsequently released by law enforcement authorities, despite ICE asking the authorities to continue detaining them.

Since 2017, Denver has had a law on the books that prohibits jail staffers from following ICE detainer requests to prevent individuals who would normally walk free from leaving for up to 48 hours. In 2019, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill forbidding all local jails and state correctional facilities in the state to abide by detainer requests.

“Local officials continue to let politics get in the way of public safety endangering the very people they say they are protecting. We’ve repeatedly sent our teams into the field to arrest criminals who should have rightfully been handed to us in the safe confines of a jail. Many of these individuals have assault charges and are dangerous to us and the community at large," says John Fabbricatore, director of Denver's ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations field office, in an announcement of the operations.

In that release, Colorado ICE officials point to three Mexican citizens who were arrested on a series of charges, including strangulation and domestic violence. One of the individuals has past convictions for menacing and child abuse. "Sadly, the violence will only continue so long as this misguided policy remains in place," Fabbricatore says.

Mike Strott, spokesman for Mayor Michael Hancock, offers this response to the ICE actions: "Denver’s ordinance doesn’t violate federal law, nor does it shield violent criminals, and the city complies with federal law to the extent we are required.

"The fact that these politically-motivated actions continue to occur in this way, especially so close to a national election, is disturbing."
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.