A Denver city ordinance takes center stage on Capitol Hill

Posted at 3:31 PM, Feb 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-15 17:31:31-05

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Denver city council ordinance took the national stage on Thursday when a police union president testified in front of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Nick Rogers is the president of the Denver Police Protective Association. He was invited to speak to the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration about his experience as a narcotics detective with the Denver Police Department.

Rogers spoke at length about the negative consequences he believes a city council ordinance enacted last year is having on law enforcement efforts. When the Denver city council approved the ordinance, Rogers reached out to Colorado Congressman Ken Buck to voice his opposition. Buck then invited him to Washington, D.C., to testify.

“The ordinance has had a chilling effect on our daily operations. We can no longer call and share information with ICE,” Rogers said. “The ordinance has created, in my opinion, a city that is much less safe than it was prior to the ordinance.”

Rogers testified alongside A.J. Louderback, a sheriff from Jackson County, Texas, Jessica Vaughan from the Center on Immigration Studies and Dr. Keith Humphreys from Stanford. Humphreys was the only witness who was against the idea that the opioid epidemic is correlated with sanctuary cities.

The hearing split lawmakers along partisan lines with Republicans calling for an end to sanctuary cities and Democrats questioning whether there was any evidence to support claims that the opioid crisis is connected to the issue of sanctuary cities.

During his opening remarks, the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Raul Labrador, said he knows illegal immigration didn't cause the opioid crisis but he believes it spurs it along.

His Democratic counterpart, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, said the opioid crisis is an American-made problem that originates with the prescription drug industry, and the idea that mass deportation can solve it is ridiculous.

“Numerous experts have concluded that we cannot arrest our way out of the epidemic. We can’t deport our way out of it either,” Lofgren said.

She also spoke against the use of illegal immigrants as scape goats.

However, Rogers spoke about the fears Denver employees face if they break the city ordinance. Those penalties range from termination to fines to jail time. In his testimony, he acknowledged that when a drug dealer is arrested there are numerous others who are willing to take their place. On the other hand, Rogers said it’s important to disrupt the drug chain.

The city of Denver submitted a response to the committee about the ways it is combating the opioid epidemic. Dr. Humphreys told the House subcommittee he believes Denver is on the right track to address the problem.

The city’s letter also pointed out that both Immigrations and Customs officials as well as the FBI have access to the biometric of people in Denver jails. However, Rogers argued that just because the data is available, that doesn't mean ICE and FBI know to look for it and that illegal immigrants in Denver jails are not flagged to federal authorities.

The hearing ended with Rep. Labrador calling for a longer hearing in front of the full House Judiciary Committee about the opioid crisis. He said the subcommittee’s purpose in Thursday’s hearing was only to focus on the policy implications of immigration policies that are being enacted across the country.