Denver police chief allays concern within undocumented community over deportation fears

Posted at 9:43 PM, Apr 25, 2017

DENVER – Denver’s mayor praised a federal judge’s decision Tuesday to block an executive order by President Donald Trump that would strip federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities – just around the same time that the city’s police chief tried to calm fears in Denver’s immigrant communities.

Denver Police Chief Robert White laid out the city’s plan on how its officers work with federal immigration officials under the Trump administration at a community meeting Tuesday that brought standing-room-only crowds. He started by noting that there have been an uptick in the number of immigration officers in the city, but told the crowd not to worry.

White reaffirmed the statements he has made over the past few months when he said again that his officers would be complying with federal immigration laws – saying DPD officers would only detain someone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally if immigration agents can produce a criminal warrant for the person’s arrest.

Dozens of concerned citizens asked the city’s top cop about what they should do if Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents show up to their doors, and others asked about what could happen to their families if one member was tapped for deportation.

"Mothers are afraid to get out of their houses for fear someone will grab them," said Ellie Vaughter during the meeting.

The chief did his best to allay fears.

“We’re not in the business of ICE,” White said. “We’re not in the business of looking for people solely on their status of being an illegal immigrant.”

The event was held with the ACLU of Colorado, which asked the city to adopt a handful of policies that protect all people’s rights, including immigrants. White says his department was already following the policies.

“They’re pretty consistent with where we were as an agency,” he said.

Both White and attendees praised the chief for holding the meeting.

"If it's not, then obviously we need to take a serious look at why it's not, and make sure that we implement it, insert it in the right place," said White.

"I think we're one of the better states for all these things, and I liked what Chief White said," Vaughter said after the meeting.

Chief White said he plans to meet with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and review the current policies to make sure no changes are needed.

And while the meeting was being held, Hancock sent out a statement praising a U.S. District Court of California judge’s decision Tuesday to block Trump’s executive order aimed at stripping federal funding from sanctuary cities – a lawsuit the city filed a “friend of the court” brief with in March.

“The safety of our residents and success of our local law enforcement efforts depend on maintaining a relationship of trust with the community,” Hancock said. “That’s why Denver joined with the 34 other cities in challenging an order that has only created uncertainty, fear and anxiety by threatening punitive funding actions. As we have said from the time the executive order was issued, the White House simply does not have the authority to do this, and I applaud the Federal Judge’s ruling to that affect.”

There have been three high-profile cases involving the pending deportation of undocumented women from the Denver area in the past few months.

Two of the women remain in sanctuary, while another, a mother of four who had been living in Aurora for years, was deported and removed from the U.S. last week.

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