DENVER – More than three months after signing an executive order calling on Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officials to crack down on undocumented immigrants with criminal histories, Colorado has felt the effects of President Donald Trump’s policies as recently as this week.
Sweeps in Colorado, Wyoming
On Thursday, 21 people in Colorado and five in Wyoming were arrested in a four-day sweep.
ICE officials said all 26 of them had prior criminal convictions and that 23 had previously been convicted of possessing or selling illegal drugs, domestic violence, DUI, illegal entry, larceny or sex offenses.
Officials added those arrested “were amenable to arrest and removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act” and that the agency “frequently encounter[s] other aliens illegally present in the United States” while conducting such operations.
ICE has started putting out weekly updates targeting cities across the country that are deemed “uncooperative” with President Donald Trump’s new immigration orders, the first of which targeted several cities in Colorado, including Denver.
The focus and strategy of the sweeps has been to remove “bad hombres,” as President Trump has called them since he first campaigned for the presidency in the summer of 2015.
Denver asks ICE to stay away from courts, schools
City of Denver officials asked ICE in a letter sent earlier Thursday to stay away from “sensitive locations,” including schools and courthouses as agents worked on enforcement.
The letter asks ICE to stay in line with a 2011 ICE memo titled “Enforcement Actions at or Focused on Sensitive Locations,” which asks agents to “avoid unnecessarily alarming local communities” and to take caution and care when enforcing federal immigration law near the “sensitive locations.”
The letter was signed by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, every member of the Denver City Council, Denver County Court Presiding Judge Theresa Spahn, District Attorney Beth McCann, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg and Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson.
It points to several recent cases in which ICE agents were found in Denver’s main courthouse to arrest people, which “has and will increasingly lead to an environment of fear for victims and witnesses.”
The letter also raises concerns over ICE actions at Denver metro-area schools, noting a March 14 incident at the Colorado High School Charter, which is near a neighborhood with a high immigrant population.
The letter also states ICE actions on that day put students, staff and parents in danger and alarmed the school’s principal and the nearby neighborhood’s residents.
“We strongly urge ICE to refrain from future enforcements near schools in Denver that do not comport with the sensitive locations policy,” reads the letter.
Sweeps have backfired in Colorado, elsewhere
Trump’s immigration crackdown has not been all successful.
Early last month, a Gunnison man born in Colorado was picked by immigration officials after a court appearance and illegally detained at immigration centers across the state for days, according to two recently filed federal lawsuits.
Bernardo Medina, 22, is Hispanic and was born in Montrose in May 1994. He and his parents moved to Mexico before his first birthday, which is where he spent much of his early life. But Medina moved back to the Western Slope when he was 18, settling in Gunnison.
On Jan. 27, 2015, he went to the Gunnison County Court for a sentencing hearing on a DUI guilty plea. Afterward, he was approached by two men later identified as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. When they asked who he was, he produced his Colorado ID showing he was indeed Bernardo Medina.
What happened over the next three days still remains largely unclear, even to the Crested Butte lawyer who filed the lawsuits, who described Medina’s ordeal as a “nightmare” in court filings.
The attorney in the case, Andy Richmond, told Denver7 t’s still unclear if the agents at the courthouse that day came specifically looking for Medina or someone else. But he says his client “had no idea” what they wanted from him, an American citizen, and agreed to come with them to an immigration facility in Alamosa because he “wanted to be helpful.”
The lawsuit says that the agents searched Medina without his permission and without a warrant before he agreed to go to Alamosa, and that he only went after the agents agreed they would return him to Gunnison after questioning him, something that never happened.
Eventually, according to the suit, Medina was told that he would have to pay a $12,000 ICE bond to be let out of custody because agents didn’t believe he was American.
Three days later, guards at the ICE facility in Aurora “somehow figured out that tremendous error had been made in abducting an American citizen.”
Medina was subsequently released from custody nto Aurora without letting him call any friends or family, with a dead cell phone and less than $5 in his pocket, according to the suits.
And just this week, the husband of an Indiana Trump supported was deported back to Mexico despite having no criminal record, according to the family’s attorney.
Helen Beristain voted for Donald Trump even though she is married to an undocumented immigrant, hoping he would keep his promise to deport only those with criminal records and leave families intact.
A group of pro bono immigration attorneys were convened to represent Robert Beristain after ICE detained him in February and they even filed multiple motions in federal court on his behalf, arguing his removal order was legally improper and asking an immigration judge to stay his removal. But unbeknownst to his legal team, ICE deported Beristain before either judge had time to issue a ruling.
"They suddenly told me it was time to go," Roberto Beristain was quoted as saying. "They told me to get my stuff, they put me in the back of a van and sped toward the border. They took me to another facility while in transport to sign paperwork. I asked to speak with my attorney, but was told there wasn't time for that. At around 10 p.m., I was dropped off at the Mexico-US border and walked into Mexico."
The current legal predicament dates back to a 2000 family vacation to Niagara Falls, New York. The Beristains missed an exit and crossed into Canada. When they turned around they were detained by ICE, the family attorney told CNN.
"When immigration officials picked him up at that time, they classified him incorrectly," attorney Adam Ansair said. "If they had classified him correctly, the voluntary departure order wouldn't have been an option and he could have followed other avenues."
Because of the incorrect classification that resulted in a voluntary departure order, Ansari said, Roberto Beristain entered a legal limbo in which getting a green card proved all but impossible. In the meantime, he made due with a work permit and a drivers license, Ansari said.
From Indianapolis, Ansari said, Beristain bounced between detention facilities -- Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas -- making it more difficult for his attorneys to file legal motions in one jurisdiction. Then on Wednesday, as his legal team was expecting a ruling, they got the news: ICE had deported him to Juarez in the middle of the night.
Helen Beristain told Ansari she felt betrayed by the president.
Colorado protests surge following executive orders
A number of protests have sprung up ever since the president took office on January 20.
From Denver International Airport to the Colorado State Capitol, hundreds of people have taken to the streets to decry Trump’s executive orders on immigration.
People have even showed up to the ICE detention center for the Denver metro area to protest the president to decry the sweeps.
Two women in Colorado seek sanctuary for fear of deportation
Two undocumented mothers in Colorado have taken refuge at local churches to avoid deportation.
Jeanette Vizguerra fled to First Unitarian Church in Denver after a stay of deportation for her was denied as she continued her quest in Centennial to keep her family whole.
Her lawyer said ICE agents were prepared to arrest and deport her from the U.S. should she have shown up to a scheduled hearing for her case.
Vizguerra has been convicted of two misdemeanors during her time in the U.S.
In February 2009, Vizguerra was convicted of criminal possession of a forged instrument for having a Social Security card with her name on it, but without a valid Social Security number. She served a 23-day sentence after her conviction.
And in May 2013, she was convicted of illegal entry after going back to Mexico for her mother's funeral and returning to the United States. Her attorney said she was sentenced to a year of supervised probation for that case.
Her case made national headlines and spurred a strong social outpouring of support.
And a mother of two from Peru, Ingrid Encalada LaTorre, has been living at the Mountain View Quaker since last fall.
LaTorre said she sought sanctuary at the church after learning she could be deported sometime in the fall.
Mountain View is one of nine churches statewide currently participating in a sanctuary network, though officials hope to eventually increase that number to about 60.
Hundreds of arrests in nationwide sweeps
Since Trump issued an executive order aiming to deport some of the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. in January, ICE agents have arrested hundreds of people nationwide.