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Mayor John Suthers warns against 'sanctuary city' policy, Green party pushes ahead

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Suthers: Sanctuary city props ‘humorous.’ - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Suthers: Sanctuary city props ‘humorous.’

While Denver considers adopting what could be one of the most progressive "sanctuary city" policies in the country, Colorado Springs has its own proposal to mull. (Read more about Denver's policy here.)

The local measure was developed by Karyna Lemus, chair of the Green Party of the Pikes Peak Region. She used San Francisco's ordinance as a model, but anticipates tailoring it to fit the Springs' 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 her petition of about 600 signatures will persuade one of the more progressive councilors to pick it up.

The draft proposal begins, "No department, agency, commission, officer or employee of the City of Colorado Springs shall use any City funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law or to gather or disseminate information regarding the immigration status of individuals in the City of Colorado Springs unless such assistance is required by federal or State statute, regulation or court decision." In the city attorney's opinion, relayed by spokesperson Jamie Fabos, that language would include all departments of the city, despite the fact that, outside governmental hiring practices, only the justice system deals with immigration status.

The Colorado Springs Police Department adheres to a statement put out by the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police that emphasizes that local cops have no business in immigration enforcement, which is a federal function. That means no "show me your papers" during routine contact and no detaining foreign-born inmates past their release date at the request of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — such warrantless requests were found to be unconstitutional. But, the statement notes, law enforcement will continue "to share information on national origin of all arrestees who are jailed."

Indeed, El Paso County Sheriff's Office's policy is just that. Spokesperson Jackie Kirby specifies that although deputies aren't mandated by law to ask about national origin, it's part of the agency's standard booking procedure. (Arrestees do, of course, have the right to remain silent.) Information about national origin gathered at the county jail is made available to ICE, upon request, though that too is optional.

Mayor John Suthers, a former Colorado Attorney General, finds "sanctuary city" proposals "a little humorous" because neither the right nor the left can get their positions straight. "Go back five years and you've got a lot of conservative folks saying the Obama administration isn't doing a good enough job enforcing federal immigration laws [so] states need to pass their own," he recounted, adding that those that did, like Arizona, saw them promptly struck down in court because immigration law is exclusively the purview of the federal government. And that doesn't change just because federal government leadership has.

"I'm a law-and-order guy — always have been, always will be," Suthers says. "So to the extent that people are unhappy with the laws, they ought to vote for people who will change them."

City voters recently did just that, but whether this new Council takes up the immigration mantle remains to be seen.


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