DENVER (AP) — Denver's mayor is backing a proposed ordinance aimed at protecting immigrants and refugees amid increased immigration enforcement and a barrage of White House threats to revoke federal money from so-called sanctuary cities.
Mayor Michael Hancock and city Councilors Paul Lopez and Robin Kniech said Wednesday the ordinance would formalize Denver's current practice of prohibiting city employees from collecting information on immigration or citizenship status and sharing that information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"With these next steps, Denver will send a clear message that every person, no matter their immigration status, can feel safe when interacting with the city and law enforcement," Hancock said, adding that he hopes to foster respect and trust in the face of "chaotic immigration policies coming out of Washington."
The proposed ordinance, which will go before the city council on Monday, notes that when immigrants fear city involvement in immigration enforcement, they are less likely to cooperate with police, report emergencies and testify or appear in court.
A provision also would bar local officers from engaging in immigration enforcement and would not allow ICE agents to access private areas and inmates absent a warrant.
Denver currently allows ICE agents to interview inmates at the Denver County Jail, which also notifies the agency before releasing certain inmates. But some critics argue that oftentimes it's not enough advance notice.
The jail only gave ICE about 25 minutes' notice before releasing Ever Valles, a 19-year-old who was being held on an auto theft charge. That drew criticism from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions after Valles was allegedly involved in a fatal shooting and robbery at a Denver light-rail station following his release in December.
ICE officials had flagged him as an "immigration enforcement priority."
Sessions also has said cities must allow ICE agents into jails for interviews and provide the agency with at least 48 hours' notice before releasing an inmate that it's expressed an interest in, or risk losing law enforcement grants from the Justice Department. Last year, Denver received about $690,000 in grants from the program.
The ordinance still allows the jail to notify ICE of inmate releases, but it includes language that requires that inmates be advised of their rights before.
Denver's move comes as President Donald Trump has made it a top priority to punish sanctuary cities, broadly defined as places that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Trump has said he believes such cities are providing a haven for criminal activity.
By THOMAS PEIPERT, Associated Press
Associated Press writer Colleen Slevin contributed to this report.
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