Denver City Council passes controversial immigration protections

DENVER -- The Denver City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Monday limiting how the city works with federal immigration officials.

The Denver Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act passed, 10-0, and bans city officials from asking an arrested individual's immigration status.

The city also will ignore U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests and ban ICE from conducting in-person jail interviews without a warrant.

Exceptions include necessary peacekeeping or following a warrant from a federal judge.

The move comes after a Republican state lawmaker wrote a letter to the Justice Department to demand a federal investigation into Denver, saying the measure could increase the risk of crime.

Mayor Michael Hancock said state Rep. Dave Williams from El Paso County is just trying to make headlines and the new ordinance complies with federal law.

"Denver is sending a clear and resolute message to our community that we stand with the immigrant and refugee communities and are committed to remaining a city that is safe and welcoming for all," Hancock said.

“Local government’s ability to protect and serve all of our people is enhanced when community members feel safe coming forward as either a victim of or a witness to a crime, regardless of their legal status.

"Through this ordinance and the other steps we are taking, Denver is building a trusting relationship with our immigrant and refugee communities that will improve the safety of our city and help everyone feel more secure."

Hancock outlined additional measures to protect immigrants.

“Along with this new ordinance, I look forward to signing a complementary executive order that will establish a legal defense fund; create a working group to track developments and policy around immigration; protect victims of crime regardless of their immigration status; assist children and families who become separated by the country’s broken immigration system; and continue coordinating actions for immigrants and refugees," he said.

The ICE field officer in Denver fired back at the ordinance.

“By passing this irresponsible ordinance, the City of Denver’s leadership has codified a dangerous policy that deliberately obstructs our country’s lawful immigration system, protects serious criminal alien offenders, and undermines public safety," Jeffrey Lynch said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, with this established policy, we can expect to witness more tragedies like we saw in the recent case of Ever Valles, a known gang member and an immigration enforcement priority, who was released in December 2016 by Denver County without ICE being properly notified.

"He was later arrested and charged with murdering a 32-year-old man at a Denver light rail station just seven weeks after he was released from Denver County Jail.

"Our goal is to build cooperative, respectful relationships with our law enforcement partners. While we will continue our efforts to work with Denver’s city government in support of public safety, it is disappointing that they have taken such an extreme step in the wrong direction.”