Archive | Press (Colorado)

Surge of ICE checks at Aurora jail draws fire from immigration advocates (Denver Post)

Mar 5th, 2012No Comments

Surge of ICE checks at Aurora jail draws fire from immigration advocates
Posted:   03/02/2012 06:23:07 PM MST
By Kurtis Lee
The Denver Post

AURORA  —Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement say a surge of its criminal alien program at the Aurora City Jail is a “routine operation,” but the move has some citizens in an uproar over its potential implications.

The Enforcement and Removal Operation’s (ERO) Denver bureau —an extension of ICE — is screening 100 percent of inmates arrested on criminal charges in Aurora in order to identify deportable aliens.

ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said the operation began Wednesday and will continue through Tuesday. The surge will also include agents conducting thorough reviews of court summonses.

“ERO reviews summonses to target aliens who are fugitives, have been previously deported, or who have been convicted of crimes that align them with ICE Civil Immigration Enforcement priorities,” ICE said in a statement.

Julie Gonzales , organizing director for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition , said that with this surge ICE is creating an information dragnet.

“Every single summons represents a huge risk to community trust in law enforcement,” said Gonzales at a rally Friday on the west steps of Aurora City Hall, where community members voiced their opposition to ICE’s increased presence.

“A summons has a name, date of birth, address and a court day. At which point ICE could then utilize that information and do unwarranted raids on homes.”

Gonzales said she believes that many in the immigrant community will now be reluctant to come forward if they’re victims or witnesses to a crime, in part because of possible ramifications.

The Aurora Police Department said it does not run the Aurora City Jail, as it’s a separate entity and has its own administrator.

“This is the first time that we were made aware of any type of ICE operation at the jail,” said Sgt. Cassidee Carlson , a spokeswoman for the police department. “We don’t have any knowledge, but I can say that it has not happened in Aurora before.”

When asked whether the perception that the police are working with ICE agents will affect the department’s relationship with the Latino community, Carlson said it’s a chief concern.

“We as an agency have worked so hard to create quality relations with the Latino community to open the lines of communication,” Carlson said. “We have no authority over immigration. We don’t care about immigration status. Our primary purpose is to provide quality community service to our residents.”

Gonzales said the surge is “Secure Communities on steroids,” referring to the federal deportation program that works with state and local law enforcement agencies.

Secure Communities is currently operating in 2,304 jurisdictions. The Department of Homeland Security plans to expand this program to all law enforcement jurisdictions nationwide by 2013.

Last year, Denver, Arapahoe and El Paso counties began participating in a Secure Communities pilot program.

Through Secure Communities, in 2011 the agency removed 396,906 individuals nationwide and 519 in Colorado, according to ICE data.

Rusnok said no statistics on the number of deportable aliens pinpointed will be provided until the surge is complete.

Viva Colorado staff writer Laressa Watlington contributed to this report.
Kurtis Lee: 303-954-1655, [email protected] or twitter.com/kurtisalee

Secure Communities participation wont be forced by Colorado

Apr 21st, 2011No Comments

Secure Communities participation wont be forced by Colorado
The Colorado Independent
April 19, 2011 Tuesday 4:20 PM EST
by Joseph Boven

Art by José Luís Agapito/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A bill that would have pulled state funding from local governments refusing to participate in the controversial Secure Communities program died in the Senate Monday. HB 1140, sponsored by Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, and Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial , met its end under fire from immigrant advocates who termed the program a racist immigration dragnet and from rural communities who saw it as an unfunded mandate they simply could not support.

The bill, which was pushed in the House as a means to remove dangerous convicted criminal aliens, would have denied any local government refusing to comply with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement program both cigarette and severance tax funds dispersed by the state. That money would have then been dispersed instead to communities who were taking part in the program.

Former Gov. Bill Ritter signed a memorandum of agreement in January with the Department of Homeland Securitys Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to bring Secure Communities to Colorado. The program is designed to target criminal illegal aliens first, but does extend to those who have not committed previous crimes beyond being in the country illegally.

In reality it is a mass deportation dragnet, Hans Meyer, legal director for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said. That is how it functions and that is what the evidence has borne out.

A recent Freedom of Information Act Request found that during Fiscal Year 2010, of the 49,839 undocumented aliens deported through the program, 13,799 of those were non-criminals, a number almost equal to the number of serious offenders also removed.

Harvey and Colorado sheriffs defended the bill as a way to enforce Colorados laws that compel local jurisdictions to refer suspected illegal immigrants to ICE.

Under the program, the fingerprints of all individuals arrested would be sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations. The Bureau in turn would check those prints with FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement databases for immigration status and prior criminal records.

Though still in its pilot phase, Secure Communities is scheduled to be in every United States county by 2013.

Responding to accusations that his bill was racist, Harvey said there was nothing racist about fingerprints. He said that the manner in which law enforcement is asked to determine the legal status of those arrested now, under SB 90, is far worse than what would occur under the ICE program.

I think this is probably the least intrusive in a color blind way, Harvey said. It is not going after people based on their skin color but based on their fingerprint.

Chad Day, Yuma County sheriff, representing the County Sheriffs of Colorado, said that while they supported Secure Communities, the program is simply too costly for small counties such as his own to acquire the appropriate technology to comply with the bill.

There are seventeen sheriffs offices in the state right now that cant comply because they lag in technology, Day said. There is just not enough money to go around.

Immigrant advocates and one self-proclaimed conservative from southern Colorado said that other costs would be incurred by the implementation of the program. They pointed to the detention of suspected illegal immigrants who are held in county jails at the request of ICE. They said the increase was an unnecessary cost during a trying economic time for the state.

While Harvey said that there were grants that could be acquired by the local jurisdictions to help them implement the program, for Democrats on the Senate State, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee that simply wasnt enough. The bill died on a party line vote.

Boulder councilman asks for city position on ICE fingerprint program

Oct 5th, 2010No Comments

Boulder councilman asks for city position on ICE fingerprint program
‘Secure Communities’ program IDs illegal immigrants after any arrest
By Heath Urie Camera Staff Writer

Posted: 10/04/2010 06:49:13 PM MDT

What: Boulder City Council meeting
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway

The Boulder City Council may, once again, jump into the national debate about immigration when it meets Tuesday night — this time to weigh whether the city should take a stance against a controversial program that uses fingerprints to identify illegal immigrants.

City Councilman Macon Cowles plans to ask the rest of the council to have its staff draft a recommendation about Boulder’s position on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s “Secure Communities” program.

The program — which has been operating for about two years in 32 states and will be operational nationwide within three years — requires local authorities to send fingerprints of people who are arrested on any charge to state police and the FBI for criminal background checks.

ICE is able to access the fingerprints that are sent to the FBI, and it checks them against a database of people known to be in the country illegally. ICE can then contact the local agency that arrested the suspect and order the person to be detained on immigration charges.

“While the program was originally directed at rounding up and deporting people who had committed serious crimes, in operation, the overwhelming majority of people processed under the program are folks who are stopped for very minor offenses,” Cowles wrote in a recent posting to the council’s public online hotline.

Cowles, who did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday, went on to criticize the ICE program, saying the department’s network of private contractors creates an incentive to detain as many people as possible.

“Large chunks of ICE detention facilities have been farmed out to private contractors who are paid by the day for each day that a person is detained in their facility,” Cowles wrote. “Thus, there is a strong incentive to build the census of people held in detention, and this may be done at a tremendous cost to local communities — disrupted families, workers who are no longer employed, but instead are in detention.”

Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for ICE, said the department is focused on catching criminals, not making money for its contractors.

“Our mission is to remove as many serious criminals from the streets as possible,” he said. “The goal of the program is to make communities more secure.”

Colorado is not yet participating in the Secure Communities program.

Participation of all states and local agencies is expected beginning in 2013. While the program won’t mandate local governments to participate, the states and police departments rely on sharing information with the FBI for criminal background checks. Because ICE uses FBI data, the only way that a state could opt out of the program is by withholding fingerprints from the FBI.

Evan Dreyer, a spokesman for Gov. Bill Ritter, said Monday that the governor is still weighing whether to allow Colorado agencies to participate prior to the nationwide rollout.

“We are considering whether to join the pilot program,” Dreyer said.

He said three communities, Denver, El Paso County and Arapahoe County, have already agreed to participate in Secure Communities if Colorado joins the pilot program. If Boulder didn’t want to participate in the pilot program, Dreyer said, it would not be required to.

Carl Castillo, Boulder’s policy adviser, said the council could handle a resolution about the Secure Communities program in any number of ways — ranging from outright opposing the program to urging the governor not to allow the state into the pilot program.

“Clearly, that’s a 100 percent political question that the council will have to wrestle with,” he said.

If Cowles follows through with his request, the council would debate it near the end of Tuesday night’s meeting. If the council agrees to support spending city resources on the matter, the public would be allowed to comment before it votes.

Immigration has been a hot-button topic for the Boulder council this year.

In May, the city manager put a stop to non-essential employee travel to Arizona. She said a controversial Arizona law that enabled police to check the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants who were stopped for other offenses could put city employees at risk of persecution.

The City Council later backed off calls for Boulder to boycott businesses with ties to Arizona, and it declined to approve a resolution condemning Arizona’s immigration laws after receiving hundreds of angry letters and e-mails.

The city’s Human Relations Commission is now drafting a resolution about the city’s desire to have comprehensive reform of national immigration laws.

Mayor Susan Osborne has said that a “substantial piece” of the city’s legislative agenda for 2011 would focus on immigration issues.

Contact Camera staff writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328, or urieh@dailycamera.com[email protected]

Colorado Weighs Changes To Fingerprint Program (AP)

Aug 24th, 2010No Comments

Colorado Weighs Changes To Fingerprint Program

By IVAN MORENO, Associated Press Writer

DENVER (AP) ―

Colorado is considering a first-in-the-nation compromise on a federal immigration program after several groups complained that the initiative to catch illegal immigrants by using fingerprints could lead to racial profiling and intimidate crime victims.

Gov. Bill Ritter’s office confirmed Friday they are negotiating an agreement with the federal government that would make Colorado the first of 29 states to modify the rapidly expanding Secure Communities program. Critics of the program have said it lacks oversight and it’s unclear how Immigration and Customs and Enforcement, which runs the program, intends to meet its goal of focusing on the most dangerous criminals.

Michael Shea, Ritter’s deputy counsel, said in an e-mail to the Colorado Bar Association last month that the proposed agreement “would be unique to Colorado, and it would provide a mechanism for determining how the program is working.” The Associated Press obtained the e-mail through an open records request that also showed that several groups and lawmakers have urged Ritter in the last two months not to proceed with the program, or to make changes to it if he does.

Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said the state was working to make modifications to the program based on suggestions from different groups but he said he couldn’t provide specifics of what the changes would look like. He stressed that Ritter has not decided whether to enroll Colorado in the program but would make a decision sometime before the end of his term in January.

“I think it’s fair to say that we recognized very early on that there were going to be a few things that we would want to modify,” Dreyer said. “And of course this is all predicated on if the governor decides to move forward.”

ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said hundreds of jurisdictions in 29 states have implemented the program so far and that none have requested modifications. Washington, D.C. police were working with ICE to negotiate changes to alleviate concerns from immigrant advocates, but the Council proposed legislation to block Secure Communities from being implemented. San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey has publicly denounced the program, which was recently implemented at his jail.

With Secure Communities, the fingerprints of everyone who is booked into jail for any crime are run against FBI criminal history records and Department of Homeland Security immigration records to determine who is in the country illegally and whether they’ve been arrested before. ICE wants to have the program in every jail by 2013.

From October 2008 through June of this year, nearly 47,000 people identified through Secure Communities were deported, according to government data released last month as part of a lawsuit by immigrant advocacy groups. Of those, 9,831 were labeled as having committed the most serious crimes, while 12,293 were considered non-criminals.

ICE has maintained that the program is a fair and efficient way to identify the most dangerous criminals who are in the country illegally. Since everyone booked into a jail is fingerprinted, supporters of the program say there is no racial profiling. The program has received support from many law enforcement throughout the country, including Ohio, Florida, and Idaho.

In Colorado, both the sheriffs’ and police chiefs’ associations have told Ritter they support the program. Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes said he wants Colorado to have the program, and so has Republican congressional candidate Ryan Frazier.

But the majority of the letters the governor’s office provided to the AP were from groups concerned about the program. Denver Council members, state lawmakers, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, and the Mexican consulate in Denver all sent letters, as well as the Colorado Bar Association, the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. The letters expressed fears of racial profiling and said the program would make illegal immigrants reluctant cooperate with police when they witness a crime or are victims.

“Due to the program’s focus on identification at booking as opposed to conviction, issues regarding due process, transparency, oversight and racial or status profiling merit further consideration,” said the letter by the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. The letter went on to say that any agreement with the government on the program should contain an “explicit requirement” that only the most dangerous suspects are screened but only when they’re convicted.

(© 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)