Williams bill would impose criminal liability on officials for ‘sanctuary’ policies

Author: Ernest Luning - January 30, 2017 - Updated: January 30, 2017

Colorado Springs Republican House District 15 candidate Dave Williams casually takes in the happenings. He can afford to relax. Williams is running to fill the seat being vacated by conservative internet preacher Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt. Williams won the GOP primary and is a shoo-in to win in the general election against Democrat Sharon Huff.
State Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, is pictured before his election on July 1, 2016, at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver. On Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, he said he plans to introduce legislation aimed at imposing criminal and civil liability on public officials in Colorado who establish so-called “sanctuary city” polices for crimes committed due to the policies. (Photo by John Tomasic/The Colorado Statesman)

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.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.


  • Jeffrey

    January 31, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Unfortunately, this worthy effort will likely end up in Crisanta Duran’s Kill Committee.

    • Catherine

      March 25, 2017 at 6:42 pm

      I sincerely hope so.

  • Annie

    January 31, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    The Colorado Politician Accountability Act…..Love it and hope it goes to ballot and passes!!! This country is not like it was hundred years ago, you can no longer let everyone in. We are full enough of people.The immigrants need to make their own country better not come to the US. and expect better.

  • Carl L.McWilliams

    February 1, 2017 at 9:31 am

    Please convey to Rep. Dave Williams the federal law known as: The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871

    The Ku Klux Klan Act, is an Act of the United States Congress which empowered the President to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to combat the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and other white supremacy organizations. The act was passed by the 42nd United States Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on April 20, 1871. The act was the last of three Enforcement Acts passed by the United States Congress from 1870 to 1871 during the Reconstruction Era to combat attacks upon the suffrage rights of African Americans. The statute has been subject to only minor changes since then, but has been the subject of voluminous interpretation by courts. This legislation was asked for by President Grant and passed within one month of the president’s request for it to Congress.


    An Act to enforce the Provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other Purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any person who, under·color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State, shall subject, or cause to be subjected, any person within the jurisdiction of the United States to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States, shall, any such law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of the State to the contrary notwithstanding, be liable to the party injured in, any action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress; such proceeding to be prosecuted in the several district or circuit courts of the United States, with and subject to the same rights of appeal, review upon error, and other remedies provided in like cases in such courts, under the provisions of the act of the ninth of April, eighteen hundred and sixty-six, entitled “An act to protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights, and to furnish the means of their vindication”; and the other remedial laws of the United States which are in their nature applicable in such cases. As later amended and codified as Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983

    42 U.S.C. § 1983 now reads:

    Every person who under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, Suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

    Section 1983 made relief—in the form of money damages—available to those Americans whose constitutional rights had been violated by a person acting under State authority. Normally, constitutional rights violations are remedied by specific performance including injunctions by the courts. Thus, if a person’s right to due process was violated by a prison guard who was said to be acting under the authority of the state, under § 1983, that person could bring suit for monetary damages against the prison guard. Without § 1983, that person would have to seek an injunction by the courts for the due process violation. The problem with such an action by the court is that injunctions cannot apply to past harm, only future harm. So, essentially the person would have an actionable cause—the constitutional violation—with no adequate remedy.

    The point is, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 can be the legal foundation within the new Colorado Legislation proposed by Rep. Dave Williams, that will allow victims to sue the Mayor of Denver, Auroa, (etal), for civil damages, because under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 “sovereign immunity” is eliminated.

  • Lorrie

    February 3, 2017 at 7:19 am

    I want to help!!! It’s up to the PEOPLE… LET’S MAKE IT STANDING ROOM ONLY ON FEBRUARY 22, 2017!!!

  • jody

    February 21, 2017 at 11:58 am

    just called both my Rep & my Senator to let them know i am Opposed to this arrogant, careless & vindictive bill.

    • Catherine

      March 25, 2017 at 6:41 pm

      THANK YOU!

  • Darwinn B Rutz

    February 21, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    Very good idea Rep. Williams..Cities and Counties think so highly of Illegal Immigrants they should be able to care of them without help of the Federal Government…


  • Darwinn B Rutz

    February 21, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    Also with the above…The leaders of the entities should be held accountable when these people commit a crime….

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