Denver mayor drafts executive order to push back on Trump immigration policy

City council has competing, but similar ordinance

DENVER – Mayor Michael Hancock is drafting an executive order that would create a legal defense fund for immigrants as part of a series of new policies aimed at pushing back against the Donald Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

The legal defense fund would be in place through Jan. 20, 2021—the first day of the president’s current term—and would help pay for lawyers for people threatened with deportation, according to a fact sheet of the draft executive order provided to Denver7 Tuesday. The Denver Post reports the fund would be created mostly from donations.

The proposed executive order would put into official city policy some of the things that Hancock and the city council have pushed for in recent months as pushback to a new crackdown by Trump and his head at the Department of Justice, Jeff Sessions.

Namely, it would make it official city/county policy that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility and that city/county employees (especially the Denver Police Department and Denver Sheriff Department) won’t aid federal agents in arresting people without a warrant.

The draft proposal also would engrain into city rule that neither law enforcement agency would hold an inmate beyond their release time without a warrant—even if there is an immigration detainer in place. It would also prohibit federal agents from entering any secure areas of a law enforcement facility without a warrant.

The proposal would also establish the legal defense fund and establish a team to track federal immigration law and enforcement in regards to the city and county.

And it would continue to uphold the U-Visa program that gives visas to undocumented people who are victims of crime and aid law enforcement in the investigation.

As a final facet, the proposed order would help families who are in the process of being broken up due to deportation get connected with foreign consulates and help them plan for their separation.

The proposal comes amid a push by councilors Paul Lopez and Robin Kniech to address some of these same concerns via the council and an ordinance—specifically the legal defense fund and language regarding detainers on undocumented immigrants.

Hancock said that though both his proposed executive order and the councilor's ordinance proposals are different means to address some of the concerns about Denver being a “sanctuary city,” that he thinks both of their efforts are worthwhile.

“The community can rest assured that their mayor and their city council are all working towards the same goals as this conversation continues,” the mayor said in a statement. “I am grateful to Councilmembers Robin Kniech and Paul Lopez for the tremendous amount of courage and vision they showed in bring forward these concepts we jointly care about. Our goals are shared.”

He said that whether it’s a city ordinance, as the councilors have proposed, or his executive order that ends up being finalized into memorial or ordinance, that Denver is standing with the immigrant community.

“This executive order is another step in this administration’s work to send a clear message to our refugee and immigrant communities that Denver stands with you and that you can place your trust in your city and law enforcement agencies that are working to ensure you and your families can live a safe, happy and healthy life here in Denver,” Mayor Hancock said. “We remain focused on enacting policies and actions that provide real protections to our immigrant and refugee communities, and does not give people a false sense of security.”

But one of Denver’s top immigration lawyers, Hans Meyer, said the mayor’s executive order didn’t go far enough and that he preferred the councilmembers’ ordinance.

“If Mayor Hancock wants to stand up for the principles he espouses and protect Denver’s immigrant community against the Trump administration’s deportation machine, then he should adopt all the substantive protections of the proposed ordinance and not simply cherry pick the parts that make for easy sound bites,” Meyer said. “Hancock’s proposed executive order fails to extract Denver probation officers, city employees, and jail personnel from colluding with ICE to deport immigrant community members.”

The councilmembers are set to discuss the ordinance proposal again Wednesday morning at a committee meeting.

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