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Denver City Council Unanimously Passes Law Protecting Immigrants

 

The Denver City Council unanimously voted to a pro-immigrant bill that will boost public safety and protect immigrants from deportation when they haven’t done anything wrong. Mayor Michael Hancock is expected to sign the bill later this week.

The bill will prohibit city and county employees from:

  • Handing immigrants over to ICE unless there’s a judicial warrant signed by a judge
  • Asking or collecting information on people’s legal status, except as required by federal or state law
  • Using city resources to assist immigration enforcement

Many of these points were already city policy, but now they will be codified in law. That means city employees can be prosecuted if they violate the new law — but moreover, it gives the city the opportunity to stick it to the Trump Administration and its mass deportation agenda.

As Councilman Paul López, one of the main sponsors of the bill, told Denverite:

We watched as our new president called us rapists, drug dealers and criminals. Our children cried in fear as our new president threatened to separate their families and build a wall of deportation. … Our community has stopped calling the police. Nine cases of domestic violence, we know that people have not shown up, not wanted to testify, not wanted to be seen, and that’s not right.

Let folks know, whether it’s here or in Washington, D.C., that we are no longer afraid, and 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. If you have any business with us whatsoever, we ask you one thing: Show us a warrant. That is what we protect, our constitution.

Reports have shown that cities that have policies like Denver’s are safer than cities that don’t, because immigrants are more likely to cooperate with the police and serve as sources and witnesses when they know they don’t risk deportation by coming forward. Earlier this year, the Denver City Attorney had to drop four domestic abuse cases because the victims involved refused to testify.

Yet the Trump Administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are continuing to attack immigrant-friendly cities, most recently by threatening to withhold law enforcement grants from jurisdictions that don’t toe the federal line on immigration enforcement. The state of California and the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago are currently suing the Administration over that threat. Meanwhile, the Republican Governor of Illinois this week signed the Trust Act, a measure which would codify provisions like Denver’s into law across the state. A similar bill awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature in California.

Before the passage of the Denver bill, some 30 advocates in Denver spoke before the City Council about the wrong-headedness of the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant policies and how the new law will lead to safer communities by letting immigrants know that they are a welcome part of their communities.

As Victor Galvan, a member of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said:

I know what it’s like to live in Denver and not feel like you have equal protection of your constitutional rights…This is not about immigration. Though immigrants will be greatly impacted by this ordinance, we want the community to be safe for everyone. If I, as an immigrant, witness a crime, I’ll feel like I can pick up the phone and call the police.

Alexa Bailon said she has lived in fear of the police her entire life due to her family’s immigration status, running home to hide if she saw a police car while playing with her friends.

We must protect our immigrants because we are members of the community who love our city just as much as anyone else. … Denver should not be a place where you hide from cops, but are protected by them instead.

Courts have repeatedly sided with immigrants and policies like Denver’s that protect the rights of immigrants, and against the discriminatory practices that Trump and Sessions want to enact. As Councilman Rafael Espinoza said:

For the secret and open racists who will soon express their opinions on social media and in emails in the coming minutes and hours and days, the reason there will not be an injunction is because our council is acting consistent with the constitution. The same cannot be said of the occupant of the Oval Office.

Mayor Hancock also plans to sign an executive order that will create a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation and provide assistance to their children.