On the night of April 27, a coalition of immigrants, their advocates and lawyers gathered at the Denver Inner City Parish to unveil a months-in-the-making proposal to make Denver a "sanctuary city" — a dubious term that's been subject of a political windstorm since President Donald Trump took office. In general, the term means a local jurisdiction that doesn't participate in immigration enforcement (a federal function), but the details get a lot more complicated.
But, in practice, both Denver and Colorado Springs have policies and practices that the administration's new Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security could consider providing sanctuary. That includes not honoring warrantless detainer requests (that have been ruled unconstitutional) and not participating in the 287g program that cross-deputizes officers to perform immigration duties. The cities have shirked the "sanctuary city" label, however, because the President threatened to withhold federal grant monies from such jurisdictions (though a U.S. District Court judge recently blocked that portion of the executive order on the basis that only Congress can make spending decisions.)
Regardless of financial risk, immigrants and their advocates want city governments to take a stronger position on behalf of those at-risk of deportation. The policy now under consideration in Denver — with backing from the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), Mi Familia Vota, the Colorado People’s Alliance, Together Colorado, Padres y Jovenes Unidos, the Meyer Law Office, the American Friends Service Committee and the University of Denver’s Criminal Defense Clinic — may be the most progressive in the country, according to a CIRC representative. You can read the proposal below.
Here in the Springs, the Green Party of the Pikes Peak Region has been developing their own sanctuary city policy for months now too. Karyna Lemus, party chair, said she used San Francisco's ordinance as a model, but anticipates tailoring it to fit local needs. Though several CIty Councilors have voiced support, she has yet to secure a sponsor. But with election season now in the rearview, Lemus hopes that her petition of about 600 signatures will convince one of the more progressive councilors to pick it up.
"I know it's difficult because of the current political climate with so much anti-immigrant rhetoric, but we're counting on our representatives to have the courage to speak out," says Lemus. "Sanctuary [status], is symbolic in a way — it's like the city saying, 'You don't have to live in the shadows.'"