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City Council Considers Stance On Protecting Immigrants From Federal Agents

DENVER (CBS4)- Dozens of people filled the room where the Denver City Council met on Wednesday to consider taking a stance on protecting immigrants from federal agents. The safety committee passed the ordinance by a vote of 6-1.

This comes on the same day as Pres. Donald Trump endorsed the RAISE Act, an immigration bill aimed at reducing legal immigration overall, and give priority to English-speaking applicants.

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RAISE stands for Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment. It's a merit-based system that would reward immigrants who are educated and have job skills.

The debate focuses on whether a proposed ordinance, that offers protection for illegal immigrants, is within the scope of Denver's legal authority.

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Denver City Council members Robin Kniech and Paul Lopez are spearheading the bill. More than 100 people were in attendance to urge council members to approve the ordinance.

Among those in attendance at the meeting was Victor Galvan who told CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger he is in the country without proper paperwork.

"Are you worried about being arrested here today?" asked Sallinger.

"Definitely not worried about being arrested here today. I have a lot of community around me and I don't think they would allow it," replied Galvan.

He was one of those anxious to urge the city council safety committee to give its okay to an ordinance that would safeguard those immigrants going to court from being put in jail if they that don't have proper documentation.

The proposal doesn't list Denver as a sanctuary city and it doesn't give hardened criminals a free pass.

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The proposal does take a tougher position on information sharing with the federal government. It would not require local authorities to share immigration status or hold inmates with an immigration detainer past their release date.

An immigration attorney, who backed the proposal, reiterated that it complies fully with the law. She said that first, it is the council's job to protect residents and their tax dollars, which it does.

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Immigration attorney Joy Athanasiou(credit: CBS)

"Your duty, number two, is to comply with the U.S. Constitution at all times. This ordinance does that. Your job, number three, is also to comply with and not be inconsistent with the federal law or state law. This ordinance does that as well. This ordinance simply says that we are not going to violate the constitution simply because the federal government is asking us to," said immigration attorney Joy Athanasiou.

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This debate comes as Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is preparing to sign a new policy that pushes for similar policies and creates a legal defense fund for immigrants.

"We want people to trust the judicial system and we need them to show up," said Hancock.

The safety committee passed the ordinance by a vote of 6-1. Now it goes to the full council for the first reading.

The only descending vote came from Councilman Kevin Flynn, "I think it's providing a false sense of security that this activity will be reduced."

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