Board Chair: ‘We will not be bullied by federal government’
May 25, 2017
If federal officials deny funding to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office because of the county's pro-immigration posture, the Board of County Commissioners will sue the feds, Board Chairman George Newman said.
"We will not be intimidated or bullied by the federal government," Newman said at the start of Wednesday's regular board meeting. "I will ask our commissioners that we take the federal government to court and take it all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary."
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Tuesday that the field office director for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Denver office told him Pitkin County will be included in an upcoming list of counties that don't comply with recent federal directives on immigration.
The list will include five Colorado counties, despite the fact that all 64 counties in the state adhere to a policy of not observing ICE detainers, which are usually not signed by a judge, DiSalvo said. The field office director told him Pitkin County would be included because of the county's vocal opposition to President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration, he said.
DiSalvo said he was upset about the designation but would stick to his guns and tell the federal government they could keep the roughly $6,000 he receives a year from it.
"I'm not changing my mind," the sheriff said Tuesday.
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According to an April memo, Pitkin County received $6,885 in law enforcement-related federal grant money in 2016. That money was reimbursement to the county for holding undocumented immigrants in the jail for the feds or anything else involving illegal immigration, DiSalvo said Wednesday.
Pitkin County officials believe they have a good case in court if the Department of Homeland Security or Attorney General Jeff Sessions declines to pay the county that grant money because of the county's immigration policy, DiSalvo and Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said.
That's because they believe Sessions' rationale for not providing the money — outlined in a memo released Monday — is not legally sound, Peacock said. In an interview Tuesday, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, whose agency also will appear on the list of uncooperative counties, said much the same thing.
"I think we do have a good leg to stand on if we were to push back," DiSalvo said. "I think this is illegal."
The Denver ICE field office director, Jeffrey Lynch, is scheduled to address all 64 Colorado county sheriffs today at a meeting of the County Sheriffs of Colorado in Eagle County, DiSalvo said.
Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper said she believes that if a lawsuit becomes necessary, the county could rally and receive support from other counties and entities across the state.
"It's not the first time Pitkin County has to stand up to the federal government," she said. "We've done it before and we'll do it again."
Commissioner Greg Poschman also supported continuing to take a stand.
"I think it's appropriate we reiterate our stance as a welcoming community," he said.
In conjunction with the Sheriff's Office, commissioners passed a resolution last month that says no deputy or county employee will perform the duties of a federal immigration officer or provide non public information to a federal immigration entity.