DENVER – The “sanctuary status” debate in Colorado could ramp up because of a bill introduced in the state Legislature this week that aims to create a distinction in state law that it won’t help federal authorities identify or track people on the basis of their race or immigration status, among other things.
House Bill 1230 is co-sponsored by two of the state’s Democratic leaders, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, and Rep. Daneya Esgar, the House Majority Caucus Chair. It also has co-sponsorship from Rep. Joseph Salazar, D-Adams, and Sen. Daniel Kagan, D-Arapahoe.
But 33 other Democratic House members have already signed on in support of the bill, as have eight other senators.
Reps. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Jefferson, and southwestern Colorado Democrat Barbara McLachlan are the only Democratic House members not to have signed on to the bill.
Bill would change statute to prohibit helping feds in undocumented roundups, tracking
If passed, the bill would enact the “Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act,” named after the governor of Colorado from 1939 to 1943 who famously took a stand against anti-Japanese sentiments amid the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
If passed through both chambers and signed by the governor, the bill would enact a series of changes to Colorado Revised Statutes that prohibits the state from helping federal authorities identify, track or detain people solely on the basis of their race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status or religious affiliation.
The bill says that the state would have to know “the basis” for a request from federal authorities to divulge any of that information, and that the request be for “a legal and constitutional purpose.”
It would prohibit state agencies from helping federal authorities from “creating, maintaining, or updating a registry” that would track Colorado residents based on the aforementioned categories. The state would still cooperate with the U.S. Census Bureau.
The bill would also prohibit the state from helping put an electronic or physical “identifier” or tracking device on any person based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status or religious affiliation.
Finally, the bill defines “internment” as holding or imprisoning a person without probable cause or due process based on the categories for more than 48 hours, and says the state will not help federal authorities intern or arrest people on those bases.
The first part of the bill contains a legislative declaration that reads: “Colorado has been a beacon of hope against inhumane practices, such as the internment of communities. Colorado is called to lead again against the potential overreach of the federal government.”
It then goes into the history of Governor Carr’s opposition to the internment of Japanese-Americans, including the speech in which he said, “The Japanese are protected by the same Constitution that protects us. An American citizen of Japanese descent has the same rights as any other citizen…If you harm them, you must first harm me.”
“History has demonstrated that the demonization of communities leading to internment camps and the deprivation of human rights, constitutional rights, and civil rights are often rooted in the overreach of federal policies,” the declaration continues.
Sanctuary status for Colorado cities a gray area for most
So-called “sanctuary cities” have been scrutinized over the past several months after President Donald Trump promised during his campaign, and carried through with his promises in January, that he would strip federal funding from any self-professed sanctuary cities.
Denver, Aurora and Boulder have all said they won’t turn over suspected undocumented immigrants solely on the basis they are in the U.S. illegally, but Boulder is the only city with an official policy on its books.
Both Denver’s and Aurora’s mayor have maintained their cities are not sanctuary cities, however, despite Denver Mayor Michael Hancock making clear that Trump’s immigration orders targeting undocumented immigrants were out-of-line with city policy.
But other Colorado law enforcement authorities aren’t so keen on “sanctuary” policies.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said in a news release on March 6 – the same day the new bill was introduced – that he believes people illegally in the country should be deported if they are committing crimes and that he opposes sanctuary policies. But he also added that his personal feelings “aren’t always compatible with what [he is] legally allowed to enforce under the ‘rule of law.’”
And the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution already provides protections against the detainment or arrest of people without probable cause no matter the legal status of a person.
But the bill, if passed, could protect people like Bernardo Medina, a U.S. citizen from Colorado who alleges he was unlawfully detained for three days by ICE in 2015 on the basis he was Hispanic – a time period that would violate the 48-hour internment portion of the bill.
The bill’s first hearing is set for March 16 in the House Judiciary Committee.