Hundreds of Denver residents contacted Mayor Michael Hancock's office following President Trump's executive order, issued on January 25, that threatens to pull federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities that protect undocumented residents from federal immigration enforcement.
Through a Colorado Open Records Act request, Westword obtained data about the number of messages — both e-mails and calls — that the mayor's office has received, as well as written transcripts of the electronic messages sent through feedback forms on denvergov.org.
According to a summary sent to Hancock's staff, the city received 155 calls and seventy e-mails related to sanctuary cities during the week of January 23.
The summary also says that 90 percent of respondents agreed with Hancock's statements about Denver's opposition to the order; 10 percent disagreed.
The Hancock administration has not formally declared Denver a sanctuary city — which has no legal definition — but it has gone to considerable lengths to say that Denver will do everything it can, including filing lawsuits, to remain independent of federal immigration enforcement.
This has included video statements and assurances from city officials at community forums promising that Denver will not help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in any way it is not legally obligated to. At a forum on immigration on Saturday, February 11, Hancock also said that he's still open to declaring Denver a sanctuary city, especially if he is asked to do so by Denver's City Council. “We’re not closed to it," he said. "If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right."
At the same forum, Hancock stated, "Our [police] officers will continue to serve and protect all citizens of Denver.... We will not become immigration law enforcement officers in this city."
Messages sent to the mayor's office reveal a host of emotions held by Denver residents about the sanctuary city issue: panic, relief, outrage and resolve.
Among the supporters of Hancock's position against the executive order, many did say that they would like to see Denver go further and formally declare itself a sanctuary city, even if that means risking federal funding:
Others who support the city's position included stirring personal anecdotes in their messages:
But responses from constituents who don't agree with Hancock are also striking. They make the argument that Denver should not be shielding people who aren't U.S. citizens. Some are outraged that Denver would gamble federal funding by protecting "illegals."
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The debate continues to rage, especially as immigration enforcement impacts Denver locally. On Wednesday, February 25, Jeanette Vizguerra — a local mother of four — entered sanctuary at Denver's First Unitarian Church to avoid deportation; she and her lawyers believe she was going to be detained during a routine ICE check-in on Wednesday.
In response, Hancock issued the following statement:
“What’s happening to Jeanette Vizguerra is appalling and the result of a broken immigration system – a system made worse by the chaotic actions of the White House and ICE. Jeanette is not a threat to our community. She is a mother of four, an active community member, and someone who has persistently pursued legal status through the proper channels. She has now become the latest victim of wrongful enforcement actions, executive orders and policies coming out of Washington that are punishing immigrants, tearing apart families and scaring our communities.
“Washington needs to issue Ms. Vizguerra the U visa that has been caught up in bureaucracy for more than a year now. Washington needs to listen to the millions of people across this country who are telling them their actions are making our communities unsafe. Washington needs to stop driving families to seek asylum in churches, stop creating turmoil and stop inciting fear."