DENVER -- The Denver City Council unanimously approved a controversial ordinance that largely sets into law what the city has already been doing in regards to how it handles immigration enforcement.
The Denver Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act passed in a 10 to 0 vote during Monday night's meeting after more than 30 people spoke in favor of the ordinance during the public comment period.
The ordinance prohibits city employees from collecting information on people’s immigration status and the sharing of that information for the purpose of federal immigration enforcement.
"People should feel free to drive a car to work and to go to school and not be worried about ICE working with their police officers to deport them," said Corrine Rivera-Fowler, an immigrant rights advocate with Padres Y Jovenes Unidos.
The Denver Sheriff Department will have to continue notifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of pending releases “to the extent they are able.” But the department will inform inmates that ICE has been notified in those cases.
Denver's ordinance also creates a working group of experts and locals who will monitor the efficacy of the policies.
While it received unified support from city lawmakers and those in attendance, ICE called the ordinance “dangerous” and “irresponsible,” in a written statement released by Denver's Field Operation Director, Jeffrey Lynch.
“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,” wrote Lynch.
Lynch’s statement continues and implies Monday night’s action by the Denver City Council will lead to an increase in violent crime, which mirrors President Donald Trump's belief that so-called sanctuary cities provide a haven for criminal activity.
“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,” he wrote.
Mayor Michael Hancock’s Office praised the passing of the ordinance and said the act sends a message. His office released the following statement:
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. I commend and sincerely thank Council Members Paul Lopez and Robin Kniech and city staff for their leadership, as well as the community for staying engaged in this critical conversation.
The new ordinance could put thousands of federal dollars earmarked for Denver in jeopardy. President Trump has made it a top priority to revoke federal money from cities that have immigration protection laws on the books.