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Denver mayor, city council reach compromise with new immigrants' rights ordinance proposal

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Posted at 4:54 PM, Aug 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-16 19:10:15-04

DENVER – Denver’s mayor and city council have reached a compromise of sorts on an ordinance aimed at memorializing city policies they say are aimed at protecting immigrants and refugees in the city.

Mayor Michael Hancock and councilors Paul Lopez and Robin Kniech announced at a Wednesday afternoon news conference that they will be introducing the new ordinance directly to the full city council on Aug. 21—bypassing committee. The proposed ordinance is called the Denver Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act. Watch the full news conference in the player below.

The two councilors and Hancock had separate proposals moving forward over the past couple of months. Lopez and Kniech had sought an ordinance that would instill new rules and make some others the city had unofficially adopted over the past year official, and their initial ordinance proposal had already passed a council committee.

Hancock had been seeking to do much of the same via an executive order—something he said Wednesday he still hopes to do to supplement the ordinance proposal, should the council approve it.

The compromise proposal will, if passed, create a working group of experts and locals who will monitor the efficacy of the policies, which include helping teach immigrants and refugees their legal rights, protecting any victims of or witnesses to crimes regardless if they are in the U.S. legally or not, and helping kids who are separated from their families because of federal immigration enforcement.

Part of the teaching program would be showing jailed immigrants what their legal rights are when it comes to immigration enforcement.

The ordinance would memorialize Denver’s already-existing policy that prohibits people in jail to be held longer than their sentence unless U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) produces a warrant to detain the inmate.

It would also set in city ordinance language prohibiting city employees from collecting information on people’s immigration status, and would prohibit the sharing of people’s personal information for the purpose of ICE’s enforcement.

Part of that would mean that the Denver Sheriff Department would have to continue notifying ICE of pending releases “to the extent they are able.”

The new proposed ordinance differs from what had been discussed recently in two ways: it clarifies language on when and what information a city employee can share, and it requires sheriff’s deputies to advise inmates of their legal rights before they’re released.

“Our entire community is safest when everyone trusts and utilizes law enforcement agencies,” Lopez said. “Today we are all standing together advocating for a path forward that will help reduce this fear.”

Kniech said the proposal was compliant with state and federal laws—an issue some groups raised with the initial ordinance and executive order proposals.

“We have carefully drafted this ordinance to maintain compliance with federal and state law while at the same time providing reassurance to our immigrant community,” she said.

“In the face of chaotic immigration policies coming out of Washington, we hope to foster the respect, trust and collaboration among community members, city officials and law enforcement that is critical to keeping Denver safe and thriving,” Mayor Hancock said, adding that he and the city council were all “working toward the same goals.”

Hancock also said he would work with the council to put together a “complementary” executive order that would establish a legal defense fund, which will help people in need of immigration legal assistance to pay for it. Hancock has in the past said it would be funded by donations.

The ordinance proposal will be filed with the council on Thursday and will get its first reading in front of the full council on Aug. 21. A final reading and public comment hearing is expected to happen on Aug. 28.

Read the full ordinance here, or click here to read a summary.