Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 23, 20183min982

Denver elected officials say they “strongly condemn” the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to suspend a George W. Bush-era program geared toward educating detained immigrants on their legal rights.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver City Council advocated for the DOJ to reverse course on its decision and allow the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) to continue.

“Terminating the LOP would eliminate vital protections for thousands of our community members who are separated from their loves ones and placed in civil immigration detention,” the letter reads.

The DOJ announced earlier this month it would temporarily suspend funding for the LOP, just weeks before the program’s contract is set to expire, NPR reports. DOJ officials said the federal government needs time to review the effectiveness of the program, which is run nationally by non-profit Vera Institute of Justice. The program costs about $6 million per year.

Vera serves more than 50,000 people per year and works with a network of like-minded organizations to carry out the LOP program across the country. In Colorado, the program is administered through the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN).

As RMIAN and Denver officials note, those in immigration proceedings do not have a right to court-appointed counsel.

“Yet immigration law is incredibly complex, and for many of our community members, the stakes in these court cases could not be higher,” Denver officials say in the letter.

The LOP helps bridge that legal gap, providing immigrants with legal information and referrals to pro-bono legal counsel, among other services.

At the immigration detention center and immigration court in Aurora, Denver officials say just 9 percent of people have legal representation during proceedings.

“To abruptly end this program would have a devastating impact on access to justice for immigrants in Denver and beyond,” the letter reads.

Read Hancock and the City Council’s full letter here.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 5, 20182min593

She’s a community activist and a loud critic of the Denver mayor and sheriff. And earlier this week, she became the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against city leaders.

Late last month, we told you about Lisa Calderón — leader of transitional services organization Community Re-entry Project (CRP) —  crying foul when the organization’s contract in Denver’s jail system was allowed to expire and city officials looked to award a pact to a new provider.

Calderón turned to the U.S. District Court in Denver to air the grievance, filing a suit against Denver Mayor Michael Hancock; Sheriff Patrick Firman; Jess Vigil, the deputy director of the city’s Department of Safety; and Andrew Albo, the chief of staff at the Denver Sheriff Department, 9news reports.

The suit obtained by 9news claims those Denver officials denied Calderón “her rights under the First Amendment by failing to renew and/or award her City contract in retaliation for her speaking out about matters of public concern.”

Calderón co-chairs a ballot initiative campaign to make the Denver County sheriff an elected official, as opposed to an official appointed by the mayor.

It was her comments on “discrimination against African Americans in the sheriff department and the reorganization of the agency to exclude African Americans and Latinos from executive leadership” that prompted officials to deny the contract as retaliation, Calderón claims.

The suit also alleges Albo solicited other bidders for the contract and spread a rumor about an affair between Calderón and a demoted chief at the Denver Sheriff Department.


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyMarch 22, 20183min521

Legal aid is on the way for immigrants in Denver who might be deported.

A city-organized legal defense fund — announced this week by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on the steps of City Hall under a large “Denver loves immigrants” banner — will launch with an initial $385,000 in its coffers. Hancock initially established the fund over the summer through executive order. The Denver Foundation will administer the fund, distributing grants to non-profit organizations providing legal representation to Denverites.

“Denver’s immigrant community plays a vital role in our city,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. ”This fund will further our ability to meet a core mission – to preserve and protect families and children living in Denver.”

A mixture of revenue sources will fund the beginnings of the legal defense fund including $200,000 from the city’s general fund; $5,000 from the Denver Foundation; and $30,000 from the Rose Community Foundation. The fund will also receive an infusion from a $100,000 Vera Institute Safety & Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Cities Network catalyst grant. Hancock has also put out a call to the business community for help supporting the fund.

The fund will also aid those seeking protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program. An Obama-era program, DACA protects undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children often referred to as dreamers from deportation. President Donald Trump said he would pull the plug on DACA in March, but court rulings have sustained the program.

Over the summer, Denver passed the Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act, articulating its policy of not cooperating with federal authorities in immigration enforcement.  


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyFebruary 26, 20182min2142

Since 2010, the Community Reentry Project (CRP) has offered transitional services within Denver’s jail system under a city contract.

Recently, that contract was allowed to expire and Denver officials considered awarding that pact to a new provider.

But CRP’s leader is crying foul.

CRP Executive Director Lisa Calderon claims Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s office denied her organization the contract because she has been a “vocal critic” of the mayor, FOX31 reports. Calderon alleged a secret June memo produced by top city officials pushed to deny CPR the contract because of her comments on jail reform.

Calderon, who made the comments during a public hearing last week, co-chairs a ballot initiative campaign to make the Denver County sheriff an elected official, as opposed to an official appointed by the mayor.

Hancock has denied the assertions that his office pushed to deny CRP the contract as retaliation, arguing rather it was the result of a competitive bid process.

Some Denver City Council members like Stacie Gilmore expressed concerns about the allegations, calling it “very troubling,” according to FOX31. GIlmore was part of a city committee slated to consider a $550,000 contract with La Raza Services. But after hearing Calderon’s grievance, the committee voted 5-1 to delay the proposal.

According to city documents, La Raza would have assumed responsibility for the Transition from Jail-to-Community (TJC) program within the Denver jail system, which promotes access to services, resources and supportive relationships in an effort to reduce recidivism.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 13, 20182min3131

She made a name for herself these past four years as the No. 2 at the Denver City Attorney’s Office. Now, Cristal Torres DeHerrera is moving over to Denver International Airport (which the airport’s marketing mavens insist on calling “DEN”) to become its chief of staff.

She’ll run the high-profile airport’s external affairs business unit, which means, according to a news release from the DIA press office:

“…DeHerrera will lead development of the airport’s strategies, policies and plans related to legislative and regulatory activities at the local, state and federal levels. DeHerrera will also be working closely with the airport executive team on a number of priority initiatives, including the public-private partnership to renovate DEN’s Great Hall with the Great Hall Partners, a team of local and international companies led by Ferrovial S.A.”

The news release included high praise from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock for DeHerrera’s tenure at the City Attorney’s Office:

“Cristal will be a phenomenal addition to the airport team … During her four years as deputy city attorney, she has grown to become a trusted advisor to my administration, a strong collaborator with our regional partners and a dedicated listener to our community, and she will remain a close and steadfast advisor. I am so pleased she will be staying with the city team and helping to lead the airport into its next great era.”

Her touted accomplishments as deputy city attorney have included leading the development of the governance structure for the National Western Center, for which she, “worked to ensure the governance structure fostered ongoing partnership, collaboration and engagement with the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods and that the National Western Center directly benefits the surrounding neighborhoods and residents for the foreseeable future.”