DENVER – Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday denied a request for a pardon from an undocumented immigrant from Peru who faces possible deportation following a conviction, saying the woman's crime was not victimless, but also took the opportunity to plead for a congressional fix to immigration reform issues.
Ingrid Ecalada LaTorre, 33, a mother to two U.S. citizens, had asked Hickenlooper to grant her clemency before her stay of removal expires Friday.
The stay was granted in May, when LaTorre’s lawyers successfully fought to get her another hearing in Jefferson County District Court on a criminal impersonation conviction from 2010.
LaTorre, who left Peru at age 17, was granted an evidentiary hearing, but a district court judge denied her motion for post-conviction relief on Aug. 29, saying her attorneys had indeed informed her of the consequences her guilty plea on the impersonation charge carried.
She’d argued previously that she was not fully aware of the consequences when she entered her plea.
The 2010 criminal impersonation charge came after she was caught using a Social Security card with someone else’s name and number on it—something she bought in 2002 in order to work.
LaTorre served four years of probation as part of her sentence and paid restitution to the person whose identity was sold to her.
She’d applied to have her removal orders canceled, but the application was denied in 2015. A 2016 appeal was also unsuccessful.
She went into sanctuary at a local church last November before coming out of sanctuary after her latest stay was granted in May. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had agreed to let the clemency request play out until Friday, when she could be deported.
But Hickenlooper denied her request, issuing a lengthy statement on the decision, which he said was made “with a heavy heart”:
“Occasionally, a governor is faced with a decision with an answer that is clear but still painful. After careful review and with a heavy heart, I have decided to deny Ingrid Encalada LaTorre’s application for clemency. I did not come to this decision lightly. I spoke with her personally, and members of my team met with her and her attorney at length to ensure we had a full account of her case. I am moved by Ms. Encalada LaTorre’s dream of being an American and her extraordinarily hard work to support her family while she was here.”
“At the same time, I must consider the impact of Ms. Encalada LaTorre’s crime on the victim, and most importantly, the precedent clemency would establish. Our country desperately needs comprehensive immigration reform that creates pathways for aspiring Americans like Ms. Encalada LaTorre to become productive, law-abiding citizens. But the crime that Ms. Encalada LaTorre committed was not victimless – far from it. Granting Ms. Encalada LaTorre’s application would compound the injustice of this unfortunate situation, and it would be a step backward in the fight for smart, compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform.
“The victim of this crime spent years dealing with the unlawful use of her Social Security number, suffering significant tax consequences and nearly losing government benefits she needed to support her own family. She opposes clemency for Ms. Encalada LaTorre. The victim is like thousands of others in this country who, through no fault of their own, face long-term consequences when someone commits this type of crime.”
Hickenlooper continued by again—as he often has in recent months—voicing his displeasure with the Trump administration’s stance on immigration and undocumented immigrants, but also saying that LaTorre’s case was cut-and-dry regarding federal law.
He also again pushed Congress to act on immigration reform issues:
“Make no mistake: I disagree with many of the harsh immigration positions taken by the Trump administration, such as deporting law-abiding immigrants and ending DACA. Ms. Encalada LaTorre’s case, however, was handled consistently with practices in place since the Obama administration. Her crime rendered her ineligible for Cancellation of Removal under federal statute.
“I sympathize with Ms. Encalada LaTorre’s difficult circumstances and deeply regret the hardship she and her family may experience. But clemency is the wrong approach to fixing our broken immigration system. It cannot, on its own, stop the deportation process. It is up to Congress to respond, and I will continue to propose solutions and pressure Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.”
As Hickenlooper noted, a pardon from a governor does not necessarily ensure that person will be protected from ICE enforcement.
He pardoned another man, Rene Lima-Marin, in a similar case in May, but Lima-Marin is still fighting his possible deportation as well.
He’d won a release from prison after a yearslong fight to get him back out of custody after he was accidentally released early for a 2000 robbery and kidnapping case, and his lawyers convinced judges that he’d turned his life around while out of custody.
But after being released from prison the latest time, Lima-Marin was immediately picked up by ICE agents.
"He has become a law-abiding member of his community," Hickenlooper said in his pardon statement for Lima-Marin, noting he thought the judge who made the decision to release Lima-Marin from prison was "right when he said the suffering he endured was not only draconian, but was a depravation of his constitutional rights."
Lima-Marin’s federal immigration case is still pending.
LaTorre issued a statement Thursday afternoon, saying she was hopeful that ICE would extend her stay:
“I now have just 24 hours to work with my lawyer and plan next steps,” said Latorre. “My son Bryant’s passport has not yet arrived and my daughter Anibal has just been ordered to see an eye specialist at Children’s Hospital.
"I can’t imagine leaving Colorado, my home of 17 years, to return to Peru in such a short amount of time. I am so thankful to my community for all the support they have provided me and my family. I am hopeful Immigration and Customs Enforcement will extend my stay to give me some time to prepare.
"I hope my story has helped Colorado and Congress to better understand the difficult choices my community face. I hope it motivates them to take action quickly to give my brothers and sisters the second chance I’m being denied.”
An ICE spokesperson told Denver7 the agency had no comment on the matter Thursday afternoon.
This is a developing story; stay posted to Denver7 for updates.