Immigration has long been a part of the foundation of our Nation. As President George W. Bush said, “Nearly all Americans have ancestors who braved the oceans –liberty-loving risk takers in search of an ideal –the largest voluntary migrations in recorded history… Immigration is not just a link to America’s past; it’s also a bridge to America’s future.” However, it is a stressful and complex time to be an immigrant in this country. The current political climate has created a system of complicated and constantly changing immigration laws and policies; regular news of ICE raids at homes, schools, and courthouses; families being separated at the border; the construction new private detention facilities; and more immigrants being detained than ever before.
Here in Denver, we are seeing ICE’s increased reliance on local jails and police to locate and target immigrants for deportation. (See e.g. Chris Walker, Increasingly Relying on Denver Jails to Find Immigrants It Can Deport (Westword, Oct 3, 2018). An investigation of this increasingly common occurrence was published in Colorado’s Westword magazine this month. (Id). In this piece, ICE, Increasingly Relying on Denver Jails to Find Immigrants It Can Deport, author Chris Walker analyzes data gathered from the Denver Department of Public Safety and the Denver Sheriff Department relating to ICE requests for release times of certain inmates, seemingly for the purpose of allowing ICE to apprehend them as soon as they are released. (Id).Walker found that “[from early 2017 through March 2018, ICE was averaging fifteen such requests per month.” (Id). However, these ICE inmate release date requests “jumped significantly during the last six months.
From April through September, ICE requested the release dates of 192 inmates being held in Denver’s two jail facilities, an average of 32 requests per month. During the last three months alone, July through September, ICE made 108 requests for inmates’ release dates.” (Id). After tense debates over legislation to “limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration enforcement,” the Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act was signed into law on August 31, 2017. (Id). The law provides that “the sheriff’s department would still give ICE release times for inmates that the federal agency was interested in, but it would advise the inmates of their rights and not allow ICE to see them inside the jails.” Denver Sheriff Department spokeswoman Daria Serna wrote an email to Westword providing that:
‘[T]he department does not track inmates’ immigration status. She wrote, ‘We receive no information regarding the immigration status of any of our inmates…Pursuant to Federal law, all Federal law enforcement agencies have access to the biometric data gathered by local law enforcement agencies. If the biometric data generates a positive result for ICE, they would be aware of who is in our custody…We are unaware of how ICE takes people into custody and do not participate in any sort of custodial or secure handoff…We cannot monitor who ICE actually picks up.’
(Id). Walker continues, “[w]hen we asked Serna what would happen if the department simply ignored a fax from ICE requesting an inmate’s release date, Serna wrote (bolded emphasis hers): ‘There would not be a penalty. Pursuant to Sec. 28-253 (d) of the Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act The Denver Sheriff Department may respond to a notification request and provide such notifications to the extent the department is reasonably capable of doing so.’” (Id). The data shows that the law has neither diminished the number of requests for inmate release dates nor impacted local law enforcement’s responses to such requests.
By: Katherine Popper
Katherin Popper is an attorney at the Law Offices of Manuel Solis, based in Denver and practices immigration law.