Williams bill would impose criminal liability on officials for ‘sanctuary’ policies
Author: Ernest Luning - January 30, 2017 - Updated: January 30, 2017
A Colorado Springs Republican wants victims of what he calls “sanctuary city policies” to be able to file lawsuits and lodge criminal complaints against the “lawless politicians” who put the policies in place.
State Rep. Dave Williams said Monday he plans to introduce “The Colorado Politician Accountability Act” this week, legislation aimed at holding officials criminally liable for the “carnage” committed by some immigrants.
“As the first Latino elected to Colorado House District 15,” said Williams, who was first elected to the heavily Republican district in November, in a statement, “I think it’s important that we do all we can to uphold the rule of law and ensure all communities, regardless of race or ethnicity, are protected from dangerous policies that are forced on us by radical, out-of-touch politicians who continually sell out to an unlawful agenda that increases the number of criminals, and needless deaths among our fellow citizens.”
Announcing the bill, Williams took aim at Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who said in a video posted online Friday that he was fine with calling Denver a “sanctuary city.”
“If being a ‘sanctuary city’ means that we value taking care of one another and welcoming refugees and immigrants, then I welcome the title,” Hancock said.
“It’s beyond any reasonable thought as to why the Democrats, along with Mayor Hancock, would continue to not only act outside the law, which they swore to uphold but also enjoy immunity from their reckless decision to place Coloradans in danger because of the sanctuary city policies that they created and continue to implement,” Williams said.
The term “sanctuary city” has re-emerged as a political hot potato lately after President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week to cut off federal funds from any jurisdiction — cities, states or otherwise — that “prevents or hinders the enforcement of federal (immigration) law.”
The Williams legislation would create the crime of “rendering assistance to an illegal alien,” a Class 4 felony, according to a draft. It says elected officials can be charged if an “illegal alien” commits any crime against person or property and an official “was responsible for creating a sanctuary jurisdiction in the jurisdiction to which the official is elected … with intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution,conviction, or punishment of illegal aliens within the jurisdiction.”
A spokeswoman for Hancock said Monday that Williams was barking up the wrong tree.
“The fact is, Denver has always complied with federal immigration laws. What we won’t do is violate the lawful rights of our people and turn our backs on our immigrant communities. Mayor Hancock will not be bullied to act otherwise. He has every intention of keeping Denver a welcoming and inclusive city where all people are valued,” Amber Miller, Hancock’s communication director, told The Colorado Statesman.
The proposed legislation drew sharp criticism from state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, who is planning to introduce legislation of his own this week called “The Ralph Carr Freedom Defense Act,” named after the Colorado governor who defended Japanese-Americans subject to internment during World War II.
“His bill is grounded in ridiculousness, surround by ignorance, covered in prejudice and overall is tone-deaf to what is happening in our country,” Salazar told The Statesman. “If Rep. Williams wants to serve as a human dogwhistle for Trump, I imagine his time as a legislator will be considered wasted.”
While a final version of Salazar’s bill hadn’t been introduced by press time, according to early drafts it would prohibit authorities in the state from handing the federal government information about the race, ethnicity, immigration status or religious affiliation of Colorado residents for certain defined purposes, including deportation or tracking.
In a statement about the bill on Monday, Williams recounted what he described as “several stories that show the carnage that has been inflicted on Colorado communities by politicians who adopt sanctuary city policies.” He cited two undocumented immigrants convicted of causing fatal car wrecks in 2004 and 2008, respectively, leaving a total of four dead, and another undocumented immigrant — Williams uses the term “illegal alien” — convicted of murdering a Denver police officer in 2005. In each case, the perpetrators had crossed paths with law enforcement multiple times but local officials hadn’t notified federal immigration authorities
“There are countless stories here in Colorado, and around the country, that illustrate the need for justice against lawless politicians and their sanctuary city policies,” Williams said. “The story of Kate Steinle is another unfortunate example that highlights this very issue. Her family is not allowed to seek justice against San Francisco or its elected officials.”
Steinle’s 2015 shooting death in San Francisco at the hands of an undocumented immigrant renewed the furor over sanctuary policies when news emerged that the perpetrator had been in custody numerous times. A California court ruled earlier this month that local authorities can’t be held liable for her death.
“My bill would allow victims, with similar circumstances, the ability to file civil suits and criminal complaints against Colorado politicians who care more about illegal aliens than protecting the people they are supposed to serve,” Williams said.