Bill would allow victims to sue ‘sanctuary cities’ for crimes committed by undocumented immigrants

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DENVER — A bill being considered in the State Senate would allow crime victims to sue so-called sanctuary cities if an undocumented immigrant is convicted of the crime.

SB17-281, the Hold Colorado Government Accountable Sanctuary Jurisdictions bill, was scheduled to be heard Monday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill declares “sanctuary policies adopted by a city, county, city and county, or other jurisdiction that direct employees not to cooperate with federal immigration officers are contrary to the safety and welfare of the people of Colorado.”

The bill would require all political subdivisions (jurisdictions) of the state to comply with federal immigration law and would give the secretary of homeland security the authority to designate a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction.

If the bill becomes law, a sanctuary jurisdiction could be held liable for compensatory damages if an undocumented immigrant living in that jurisdiction is convicted of a crime.

“The bill waives governmental immunity against a jurisdiction and against its public employees for personal injuries caused to crime victims as a result of the jurisdiction creating sanctuary jurisdiction policies in violation of the federal law,” the bill summary states.

Victims of crimes could sue for close to $2 million under the proposed language in the bill.

The bill also points out how much it is costing Coloradans to incarcerate undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes.

The bill states 14.7 percent of inmates in the Colorado Department of Corrections in 2016 were undocumented immigrants.

According to the bill’s authors, federal funding covered less than 3 percent of the “true incarceration costs” on those inmates, while taxpayers spent more than $75 million.

Democrats in the House are critical of the measure and have indicated they are poised to defeat it when the issue comes up in committee.

“It’s requiring that law enforcement enforce federal law and that’s not their job,” Democratic State Rep. Jevon Melton said in February.

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