DENVER — Less than a month after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asking agents focused on deportation to respect courts and schools, ICE agents were caught on video making arrests inside Denver's Lindsay-Flanagan Courthouse.
The videos surfaced Tuesday after the Meyer Law Office, which represents several undocumented immigrants, made an announcement and posted the videos to YouTube. Hans Meyer, the firm's principal attorney, said the videos prove ICE isn't willing to cooperate or listen to pleas for change.
"We believe this practice has and will increasingly lead to an environment of fear for victims and witnesses," Hancock wrote in his letter to ICE's Acting Field Office Director Jeffrey Lynch.
The letter, penned on April 6, wasn't heeded. ICE agents can be seen on video on April 28 and May 5 with undocumented immigrants in handcuffs.
One of the undocumented arrestees is seen on video with ICE agents pinning him down before they removed him to a detention facility in El Paso, Texas.
Watch the videos below, or tap here if they don't load.
"Brutalizing people on video, in full public view, it drives everyone away from trusting local government," Meyer said of the videos, predicting less cooperation in the future from the undocumented immigrant community unless a change is made.
Meyer called upon Denver to pass a sanctuary city policy, although city leaders have been hesitant to approach the topic in the past.
"We have reached a major crossroads here. The mayor, the city council, they need to step up and pass substantive sanctuary policy and do it now," Meyer said.
Meyer's group is behind several undocumented immigrants, including Jeanette Vizguerra, who is in sanctuary in a Denver church now.
In an ICE response, officials told Denver7 they don't view courthouses as sensitive places, although they do recognize schools, places of worship and hospitals as sensitive locations.
In the response, officials confirmed they arrested both undocumented immigrants, each originally from Mexico.
"The agency's pursuit of criminal aliens is motivated solely by our commitment to promote public safety," an ICE official wrote.
Mayor Hancock's office fired back late in the day, suggesting courthouses should be included in the list of places that receive special protection.
"The City and County of Denver outlined these impacts very clearly to ICE. We asked them to respect sensitive locations and take measures around these sensitive areas so as not to potentially put by-standers at risk, hinder the prosecution of crimes or compromise police-community relationships vital to public safety. It is disappointing that they have not responded to our requests.
We believe courthouses, hospitals, schools, and places of worship deserve special protection from immigration enforcement. But like cities and counties throughout the United States, Denver does not bar ICE officials from entering public buildings. We will continue to drive a clear and unwavering message to ICE that this is not the right approach and they must find another route to enforcing immigration laws," Jenna Espinoza, deputy communications director for Mayor Hancock's office, said.
It's not clear if city officials are considering a policy change.