Colorado Democratic, immigration leaders sound alarm over possible upcoming ICE raids in Denver

Posted at 5:15 PM, Jul 11, 2019

DENVER – Colorado’s Democratic political leaders and immigration activists are preparing for immigration raids on undocumented families that national media outlets have reported are planned by the Trump administration to take place starting this weekend in several cities, including Denver.

The New York Times reported Thursday, citing three current or former homeland security officials, that the raids, which were postponed after originally being planned for late June, will start on Sunday. The officials said the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actions would take place over multiple days and could include collateral immigrants who were not originally targeted.

The Times reported that at least 2,000 immigrants would be targeted in at least 10 major cities. The Miami Herald reported that Denver was among those cities.

In a statement Thursday morning, ICE said it would not give out specific details about possible raids “due to law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety of [ICE] personnel.”

“As always, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” said ICE spokesperson Alathea Smock in a statement Thursday. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and – if found removable by final order – removal from the United States.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, said he was concerned about the possible raids and the effect it could have in Colorado. He and other pro-immigration leaders have pushed back against ICE actions, saying they sow distrust and fear among the immigrant communities whether people are here legally or not.

“If true, these reports are of great concern and another failure of leadership by the Trump administration. Instead of working with Congress to find a real, comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system, the President is unfortunately focused on creating uncertainty and fear,” Polis said in a statement. “These actions make our communities less safe and increase distrust of law enforcement.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock echoed those sentiments despite the lack of clarity on the raids.

“We will do whatever we can to prevent the inhumane practice of separating children from their families,” he said. “We will never support roundups that are meant to spread fear in our community.”

Hancock, in a news conference Friday, called the Trump administration's immigration policies "ass-backwards," saying the raids will do nothing but hurt the progress the city has made in building trust with immigrants.

"It has the immigrant community fearful," Hancock said at the Friday news conference. "How does this help?"

Hancock and Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said Denver officers won't be involved in the ICE raids and would never assist the federal government in immigration enforcement.

Hancock, the Denver Agency for Human Rights & Community Partnerships and the Denver Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs reiterated that residents – no matter their legal status – should “look out for and check in on each other” and to know their rights under the law. They also directed anyone wanting to help the immigrant community to donate to the Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund, which helps provides free legal counsel to people who face possible deportation.

Immigration advocates plan to protest the raids and DHS actions at the border on Friday, as well as the GEO Group’s ICE detention facility in Aurora.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent sent a notice to district families saying the district would do all it could to protect students from any enforcement actions and said the district would not share information about any students unless required by law.

“I write this message today to reassure our families that our schools have been and will continue to be places for all students regardless of immigration status, national origin, religion or race,” Cordova said. “I also want to say that I strongly oppose comments like those of President Trump announcing that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will work to remove people from our country.”

The Colorado Immigration Rights Coalition is hosting learning sessions for families to learn their rights and has staff for families who are involved in deportation proceedings. It also has a hotline it is asking people to use to report ICE activity: 1-844-864-8341 (option 2).

The possible raids come as two undocumented immigrants living in sanctuary in Colorado have been threatened with thousands of dollars in fines by ICE headquarters for disobeying their removal orders.

One of those immigrants, Ingrid Encalada Latorre, told Denver7 Wednesday she and others who received the threats are meant only to instill fear.

Polis did not detail on Thursday what steps might be taken by his administration in the event the raids happen.

“Colorado celebrates our immigrant communities, and we will not allow the public safety of Coloradans to be held hostage by the Trump administration,” he said.