DENVER -- With a stroke of his pen, Denver’s mayor has responded to President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration.
Mayor Michael Hancock signed a sentencing reform bill Thursday that will help protect immigrants who are here legally from being put at risk of deportation due to convictions for minor crimes.
“We will, as a city, not sacrifice our values to bend to a broken immigration system,” Hancock said.
City Attorney Kristin Bronson told Denver7 that the old law had a “one size fits all approach to sentencing.”
“Nearly all our municipal infractions were met with one sentencing range, zero to 365 days,” she said. “The new legislation allows us to have the time fit the crime.”
The new bill splits the sentencing range into three categories.
New Sentencing Structure
Minor Crimes (park curfew, urinating in public, encumbrances) maximum penalty – 60 days
Most Crimes (shoplifting, trespassing) maximum penalty – 300 days
Violent Crimes (multiple domestic violence, sexually motivated, serious bodily injury) maximum penalty – 365 days
“We have a lot of folks in Denver that are living here legally,” Bronson said. “They’re not US citizens, but they have a green card, they’re here on a work visa or a student visa. Under the prior system, if they were convicted of something simple like a park curfew, they could become deportable, under federal law.”
Bronson said the city didn’t think that was good policy, so the Mayor and City Council have eliminated that potential risk to ensure that those residents can remain here legally, even though they were convicted of a low-level infraction.
Bronson told Denver7 that by lowering the maximum sentencing range below 365 days, it removes the “365-day trigger” under federal law to make someone who was here legally, deportable.
Hate Crime Protection
The new bill also provides more protection against hate crimes.
Bronson said Denver has seen an uptick in hate crimes following the November election, many of them related to hate graffiti.
Under the old law, the hate graffiti was prosecuted as a property crime.
“We would not be capturing the full extent of the injury to the community,” she said, “with this sentencing enhancer, if we see something we think qualifies as a hate crime, we can seek a greater penalty.”
The owner of Shish Kabob Grill in Denver said the sentencing reform has been a “long time coming.”
Obeid Kaifo has been targeted with hate messages because of his outspoken views about the violence in Syria, President Trump’s behavior and the Muslim ban.
Kaifo was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Colorado, but his family is from Syria.
“I’ve had family die in Aleppo,” he said. “I’ve had two uncles die, my grandfather, my dad’s cousin. Those are deaths done by the regime.”
Kaifo said he’s received phone calls, Facebook messages, and graffiti scrawled on the sidewalk in front of his restaurant calling him a terrorist.
He said he’s even received veiled death threats.
“It’s scary,” he said, “ridiculously scary.”
The restaurant owner told Denver7 that anyone who targets individuals and defaces their property with messages of hate deserves extra punishment
He said this isn’t about someone’s First Amendment rights, it’s about justice.
“People have the right to live in a country, regardless of where you come from, and feel safe,” he said. “You can have a difference of opinion all day long, but you don’t have the right to take away their right to feel safe.”