DENVER — A bill scheduled before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday aims to keep Colorado from losing federal funding over sanctuary city policies.
SB17-281 is the second attempt this session by Republicans to address Pres. Donald Trump’s immigration policies and ensure the state doesn’t lose federal funding because local law enforcement agencies won’t comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold requests.
The prior effort, HB17-1134, was killed in the Democrat-controlled House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee in February.
Denise Maes, policy director for the ACLU of Colorado did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but there is little doubt the ACLU will change its position on this bill.
In a Denver Post report from February, the ACLU came out sharply against it. Maes said at a press conference then that the bill was unconstitutional and in direct conflict with the Fourth Amendment.
“It attempts to trample on our due process rights,” she said, The Post reported.
That won’t stop Republican lawmakers, however, who say they are trying to protect Colorado from funding loss and find compensation for victims of crime perpetrated by illegal immigrants.
“We decided we wanted to further the debate on sanctuary cities and see what we could do to protect the people of Colorado from illegal immigration and the crime that somewhat follows that,” said Rep. Dave Williams, (R-El Paso), who along with Rep. Phil Covarrubias (R-Adams/Arapahoe) and Senators Vicki Marble (R-Weld/Larimer) and Tim Neville (R-Boulder, Denver, Gilpin and Jefferson) are sponsors on the bill.
Key changes from House Bill 1134 include:
- Criminal liability toward a jurisdiction is deleted.
- Property damage liability is deleted.
- Appeals can be made to the Colorado Supreme Court.
- Deleted requirement that local police notify ICE when encountering illegal immigrants in routine police work.
- Added the specific citations requiring compliance with federal immigrations laws.
- Added a requirement to publish federal criminal immigrant releases and rejections of ICE detainers online.
- Added citation from Trump’s executive order concerning sanctuary cities.
Williams said his prime focus is to seek justice for victims of crimes committed by those in the country illegally. The bill would allow victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants to sue municipalities for compensatory damages if certain requirements such as residency and conviction are met.
Williams, who also sponsored House Bill 1134, said “when there is crime, there are victims, and they don’t have recourse when the crime is committed by an illegal immigrant.
“One of the ways to allow for that is to waive governmental immunity and allow victims their day in court,” Williams said. “They should be made whole. We should not be importing crime, and that is what happens when we attract illegal aliens to Colorado.”
ICE statistics document that in 2014, the Denver Justice Center rejected 194 ICE detainer requests. It was 10th highest in the United States.
“The people of the state of Colorado want this,” Marble said. “And we are bound and determined to get them what they are actually asking for. This bill recognizes federal supremacy in immigration.”
Opponents have argued that if the federal government wants immigration laws enforced then it should enforce it, not state and local governments.
“States and cities can’t opt out of federal immigration laws” Marble said. “Colorado should strive to be in full compliance with federal law.”
Neville said one of the most important issues facing Colorado concerning criminal illegal immigrant is the cost to taxpayers.
Neville said that Department of Corrections statistics show that in 2015, there were 1,983 incarcerated illegal immigrants and another 4,700 criminal illegal immigrants detained in local jails, costing Colorado taxpayers $145 million.
“The federal reimbursement grant for that is a paltry $2.1 million,” Neville said, adding illegal immigrants are attracted to sanctuary cities because they are less at risk for being turned over to ICE. “The costs of incarcerating criminal aliens can be reduced significantly if the thousands of criminal aliens in Colorado’s local jails are turned over to the fed immigration authorities when they finish their jail terms instead of being released back into communities. Deportation should be determined by federal deportation courts not local politicians.”
Marble said much of the cost may have already been preventable if there was full compliance.
“I know there is quite a revolving door in our state DOCs and in the counties,” she said when asked how much of the cost was to repeat offenders released into the community instead of being detained for ICE.
Many sheriffs across Colorado have expressed concern with detaining ICE holds past their actual sentencing for fear of 4th Amendment violations.
However, Neville said this bill holds harmless local Sheriffs in those situations.
“When we get into testimony you’re going to hear more information that gives the sheriffs some safeguards. If the sheriffs do their job based upon the parameters of federal law and then ICE does not do their job, that’s a different story, and we don’t want to hold our sheriffs accountable for 4th Amendment violations because the federal authorities have not stepped forward and executed what they should.”
Marble added that if Colorado abides by federal immigration laws it could save the state millions.
“When they are released, very few are deported,” Marble said.
Democrats are likely to kill the bill in the House again, but Neville said his job is to put together policy that identifies issues and their costs, and if all legislators are owning up to their responsibilities they should pass it.
“People are being hurt by policies because of lack of compliance with federal law,” Neville said. “There are actual damages and they should be able to seek compensation for those damages. And the overall cost to everyone in Colorado from sanctuary policies and from illegal immigration is an extremely large cost that we should be able to get our hands around and actually diminish the effects on taxpayers.”