DENVER – The heated immigration debate will get cranked up a notch on Wednesday.
That’s when Colorado lawmakers will tackle a bill that would hold local politicians, including school board members, who support sanctuary policies, accountable for the injuries and damage caused by undocumented criminals.
“It would force politicians to have skin in the game,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dave Williams, R-El Paso County. “If they create the environment, if they create the sanctuary city, then they would have to be responsible for the backlash and the follow(up) to that.”
Opponents say Williams’ bill is mean-spirited.
“This is one of the most anti-immigrant and xenophobic bills that we’ve seen in the last decade,” said Kyle Huelsman, policy manager for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “Rep. Williams and (co-sponsor) Sen. Vicky Marble have gone to new extremes to push a radical anti-immigrant agenda in the State Capitol.”
Williams pointed to the February 7 shooting death of Tim Cruz, at RTD’s 12th & Sheridan light rail station, as an example of why his bill is needed.
One of the two suspects in that shooting, 19-year old Ever Valles, had been arrested in October for aggravated auto theft and vehicular eluding.
ICE placed a detainer on him, saying he was a noted gang member with prior convictions and was a "deportation priority."
But Valles was released on December 20 after posting $5,000 bond.
The Sheriff Department said it notified ICE of Valles’ impending release via a fax, but ICE maintains the detainer was not honored.
Sheriff Department Statement
Today, the Sheriff Department issued a statement clarifying its position on the Valles case.
“The death of Tim Cruz was a tragedy, and the Denver Sheriff Department wishes to send its sincere condolences to his family and friends in this difficult time. The circumstances of this case painfully illustrate the difficult and separate responsibilities of local safety officials and federal immigration authorities.
“Denver has never, and will never, condone dangerous or violent individuals being on our streets, immigrants or not. However, detaining anyone without a criminal warrant is a violation of the 4th Amendment. Once individuals in Denver’s jails post a bond, the Sheriff Department has no legal ability to hold them without a warrant, as was the case with Ever Valles."
The statement went on to say there has to be a better system where focus can be placed on criminals who mean harm, while protecting residents who work hard every day to provide for their families.
Williams’ bill would allow victims and their families to file for a civil action or a criminal complaint against an elected official who is responsible for the creation of a sanctuary jurisdiction.
· The maximum amount of compensatory damages for injury is $700,000 per person or $1,980,000 for injury to two or more people.
· The maximum amount of compensatory damages for property is set at $350,000 per person or $990,000 total.
· The Colorado Governmental Immunity Act would not apply
· Bill creates crime of rendering assistance to an illegal alien through a sanctuary jurisdiction, which is a class 4 felony.
· Bill includes a severability clause and a provision that states the bill is not subject to judicial review.
· Requires local law enforcement to notify ICE whenever they suspect that an arrestee is in the country illegally.
“Local law enforcement should be making every effort to notify ICE well before any suspect or any one in custody is released, so that ICE has ample opportunity and enough time to actually pick these guys up,” Williams said.
“Ultimately, this proposal is unconstitutional,” Huelsman said. “The really damaging part is it brings us back to the 2006 ‘show me your papers’ law.”
Huelsman told Denver7 that Williams bill directly asks police to go out and ask for immigration status and enforce federal immigration law as part of their routine police duties.
He said, ultimately, that will end up making communities less safe, because immigrants without documents who witness crimes, will be less willing to talk to police, if they fear police will turn them over to ICE.
“We’re here for family unification,” Huelsman said, “for keeping families together and making sure that the police are following the United States Constitution.”
HB-1134 will be heard in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee at 1:30 Wednesday.
Opponents will host a news conference to speak out against the measure at 2 p.m. in the West Foyer of the State Capitol.