News

Rep. Dave Williams asks for Trump’s help to block Denver ordinance on immigrants

Author: Joey Bunch - August 27, 2017 - Updated: February 15, 2018

Rep. Dave Williams is accusing Denver Mayor Michael Hancock of pandering to the “alt left” with a city policy not to help enforce federal immigration laws. The Republican from Colorado Springs is calling on President Trump to crack down on Denver.

The Denver City Council is set to vote Monday night on the Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act,  proposed by the mayor policy “to reduce fear within the immigrant community and clarify for everyone that Denver is not engaging in immigration enforcement.”

“Your support for this so-called ‘public safety’ ordinance is troubling to say the least,” Williams wrote to Hancock, according to the letter dated Aug. 22 that Williams provided to the Colorado Springs Gazette. “After reading the proposed measure and considering its merits, one can easily determine that this is nothing more than attempt by your office to pander to the alt-left and other open border (sic) militants, while further endangering citizens and lawful immigrants who reside in Colorado.”

Hancock dismissed Williams’ assertion Sunday.

“We are not going to engage in an obvious effort by Mr. Williams to create some headlines for himself,” Hancock told Colorado Politics Sunday. “Should he care to educate himself on the ordinance and why it does not violate federal law, we are glad to refer him to Google search. With a little effort, he would clearly see Denver is taking positive actions to unite people and protect their rights, safety and contributions to our city.”

This month, when the proposal was announced, Hancock said, “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, and know that our No. 1 priority is the safety and health of everyone in Denver.”

In addition to the ordinance Hancock supports, his office said he is working on an executive order on the same subject to:

  • Create a legal defense fund for immigrant
  • Create a working group of experts, stakeholders and city staff to track the impact of Denver policies.
  • Make sure city employees and law enforcement get training on laws and legal rights.
  • Teach immigrants and refugees about their rights.
  • “Protect victims and witnesses regardless of their immigration status.”
  • Assist children and families who are separated because of deportation.

The U.S. Constitution vests immigration enforcement with federal agencies, primarily Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Those, like Williams, who oppose policies that make it easier for undocumented residents to remain in the U.S. illegally, say local governments should not adopt policies that could make it harder for federal agents to do their jobs, however.

In the last legislative session Williams sponsored a bill that would have allowed government officials in jurisdictions deemed “sanctuary cities” to be arrested or sued for violent crimes committed by undocumented residents. He cited Denver, Aurora and Boulder.

“It’s pretty obvious this bill violates the U.S. Constitution,” Denise Maes, public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, said at the time. “Fourth Amendment rights are fundamental foundations of our democracy, and this bill is contrary to that.”

She and other opponents argued that immigrants would be less likely to report crimes they witness or are the victims of, if they are afraid to talk to police because of immigration status.

Williams went on to write in his letter to Hancock last week, “It is disgraceful that you would rather pander to the radical, alt-left special interests by promoting unlawful activity while refusing to protect or even acknowledge the victims of illegal immigration.”

In another letter dated two days later, on Thursday, Williams told Trump he is a Latino lawmaker and wants the president to assign additional resources to Colorado to block “sanctuary city politicians who are attempting to pass policies that will attract more criminals to Colorado.”

He concluded the letter, “It is clear that Denver officials are determined to allow criminals to run loose on the streets and deny Coloradans their rights to safety and justice. As such, your administration is our best hope to stop this lawless behavior.”

President Trump has proposed deputizing local law enforcement to help, however. He also has proposed withholding tax dollars from sanctuary cities.

Editor’s note: This story was corrected to say that Hancock’s executive order would further extend the proposed ordinance, but his order on the same subject is not part of the ordinance that he supports.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.