The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado is accusing the Garfield County Sheriffs Department of reporting domestic violence victims to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The ACLU said that has resulted in the domestic violence victims facing deportation proceedings.
The Garfield County Sheriff's Office released a statement Tuesday night, accusing the ACLU of "lies and slanderous accusations."
The ACLU and the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence has sent a letter to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario saying the referrals are "out of step with Colorado law" and "created a strong and perverse disincentive for undocumented victims and witnesses of domestic violence to report the abuse to law enforcement."
"The signal to the undocumented population is clear. If you call the police to report domestic violence, you may end up being deported," said ACLU Staff Attorney Rebecca T. Wallace.
The group said Colorado Senate Bill 90 has an exception that allows sheriffs to refrain from reporting a domestic violence arrestee to ICE unless and until that individual is convicted.
The ACLU said other counties are changing how they handle cases involving undocumented victims.
"Jefferson County, Mesa County, and Hinsdale County are just a few of those counties that were receptive to ACLU advocacy, and we commend them taking this step to ensure the undocumented community feels safe contacting the police to complain of domestic abuse", said Wallace. "Negotiations with several other counties are ongoing."
Garfield Sheriff's Office Response
"At the core of this issue is the ACLU attempting to protect illegal aliens, particularly females that are arrested for DV and 'might' ultimately turn out to be victims," a statement from the sheriff's office said. "As there are many things that 'might' happen to someone charged with a crime, it is not up to the sheriff to attempt to predict these many outcomes. It is up to the sheriff to comply with and report to ICE conditions set forth in the statutes with respect to those arrested and incarcerated."
Garfield County Sheriff issued a statement Tuesday evening that said:
"I have always been sympathetic to victims of crimes, regardless of their immigration status. If you are a victim of a crime, you should report it and be provided all of the efforts and services available to victims of any crimes. Also, having taught domestic violence classes at the local police academy for over 10 years, I fully understand the dynamics of DV and the associated difficulties with victims reporting their abuse. This is not a singular issue for the illegal immigrant population but an issue for all victims of DV. Victims of DV are afraid to report, regardless of their immigration status. To reduce this difficult situation to concerning themselves only with the illegal immigrant population, the ACLU is ignoring the broader topic of DV throughout the state.
"Further, if the ACLU does not like the manner in which the law is written, why dont they find a legislator sympathetic to their cause and change the law? Instead, they prefer to use lies, slander and bullying tactics to try to force their will on those of us that respect the law and comply with it."
Copyright Report a typo or inaccuracyIf you have a news tip or a follow-up to this story, e-mail us.Copyright 2012 by TheDenverChannel.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.