DENVER — Two Colorado lawmakers are sponsoring a bill to protect personal information after an investigation by an immigrant organization discovered employees with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) were voluntarily sharing information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The Colorado Immigration Rights Coalition team filed an open records request after people raised concerns about personal information being shared. Siena Mann, the campaign manager for the organization, said they wanted to get to the bottom of the issue.
“We found was that there was email communication between DMV employees through the motor vehicle investigations unit with ICE agents,” Mann said.
More than 200 emails, between January of 2018 through May of 2020, showed DMV staff proactively assisting ICE.
“The information that ICE was seeking was about SB 251 applicants, or folks who were applying for different driver’s license programs,” Mann said.
Senate Bill 251 was signed into law in 2013 and allows undocumented Coloradans to obtain a driver’s license. Since the law was implemented, more than 150,000 Coloradans have obtained a driver’s license or an ID.
Arash Jahanian, the director of policy and civil rights litigation with Meyer Law Office, said when Coloradans share information with the government in exchange for services there is an expectation to protect their information, but he adds that it’s not always the case for immigrants.
“For years, ICE has utilized state and local governments' information to data-mine in their search to deport as many human beings as possible,” State Sen. Julie Gonzales said.
Mann said because the documents they received were redacted, it’s unclear if anyone was arrested as a result of the information shared or how many people were impacted.
ICE released a statement reading, “cooperation with local law enforcement is essential to protecting public safety.”
At the time the information was exchanged, there were no guidelines on data sharing. Mann said she worked closely with the governor’s office to provide a solution and in May of 2020, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order that limited information sharing strictly to criminal investigations.
State Sen. Gonzales and Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez are sponsoring a bill to protect personal information. The bill will be introduced in the coming weeks. It aims to mend a broken trust between the community and the government and close loopholes to prevent information to be used for immigration enforcement.
“When you provide your information to the state of Colorado, your information will be protected from any government overreach unless that federal agency goes and gets a warrant in a court of law from an actual judge,” Gonzales said.
In the 2021 Colorado State of the State address, Polis voiced his support for the bill.
“It means partnering with Sen. Gonzales and Rep. Gonzales-Gutierrez to ensure that state data isn’t used to enforce broken and inhumane immigration system,” Polis said.