By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4)- With gridlock in Congress, state and local governments are taking the lead on immigration reform and "sanctuary cities" have become a flash-point in this year's gubernatorial election.
Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton has made abolishing sanctuary cities - or cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration law - one of the pillars of his campaign, pointing to Denver as one of the worst offenders.
"This comes down to a public safety issue. It is unconscionable to me that you could have somebody as we had in Denver who committed vehicular homicide and was charged with a felony and spent less than 14 hours in a Denver jail and was released."
His promise to rid the state of sanctuary cities, however, will be a difficult to deliver on, "There are certain things that can be done from a state funding standpoint. There are certain things that can be done from a state government standpoint in terms of changing some leadership around."
But he admits, without the legislature's help, his influence will be limited, and democrats will almost certainly be in control of the House, "I don't know what avenues will be specifically available except my determination to pursue every avenue available."
His Democratic opponent Jared Polis has a distinctly different take. He's from Boulder, which declared itself a sanctuary city.
"As Governor of Colorado, I'll prevent President Trump or any president from commandeering local law enforcement to enforce their Washington D.C. priorities."
He insists sanctuary city policies don't protect violent criminals, "If someone is arrested for a crime and they're not here legally they should be deported. What we're talking about here are non-criminal immigrants, people who may have entered the country illegally and reside here and work here but have not violated any of our other laws."
But cases like Ever Valles, who committed murder after he was released by the sheriff of Denver despite an ICE detainer, refute that. Still for every case like his, there is a mom or dad taking sanctuary in a church.
Polis recently voted "present" - meaning he didn't take a position - on a bill to abolish immigration and customs. He told me his vote was in protest of the separation of families at the border, something Stapleton has not taken a position on.
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