Carbondale passes new immigration policies amid ICE anxieties
August 25, 2017
Carbondale trustees have approved new town policies in an attempt to gain the trust of immigrants, while word has spread of arrests by federal immigration officials in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Ted Hess, a Glenwood Springs immigration attorney, said that several of his immigrant contacts reported numerous arrests early last week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, though that activity is difficult to verify. Hess said all he has is anecdotal evidence, but he received seven phone calls Aug. 14 from people reporting ICE arrests and activity, and similar accounts followed later in the week.
ICE has arrived, he said, and these kinds of raids will be a feature, periodically, of living in this valley. “Obviously, this makes life more risky and miserable if you’re undocumented. What it really does all too often is separate functioning families who are contributing to our society and economy.”
Jennifer Smith, another Glenwood immigration attorney, said, “Based on what I know, enforcement operations are going to continue throughout the valley to identify people who may have assisted their children by entering the United States without permission and for potential suspected Central American gang members, people with final orders of removal, and criminal convictions.”
“I imagine there will be other people picked up in the course of these actions. It remains critical that people know and assert their rights to ensure fair enforcement and protection of due process,” she said.
The extent of ICE’s operations in Garfield County and the Roaring Fork Valley is difficult to pin down. Aspen Public Radio reported an ICE arrest in Glenwood in late July, and then detailed the deportation of a 26-year-old Salvadoran man living in Glenwood.
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On Thursday an ICE spokesperson in Denver was not able to verify the agency’s operations in the area.
“I’m not aware of any specific ICE raids or extra enforcements,” Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said. “If they’re doing it, they’re doing it quietly, and it hasn’t reached my desk.”
The sheriff’s office is also a part of a regional law enforcement and immigration council, which has been fielding similar rumors and concerns, he said. The sheriff said he thinks this may be a case of a story getting blown out of proportion — that an ICE arrest may have led people to believe the agency is hunting people down en masse.
In the meantime, Carbondale trustees worked through a resolution proposed by four of the town’s middle schoolers. The final resolution that was passed Tuesday bars town employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status or taking action based solely on immigration status.
In addition, any town employee would need trustees’ approval to work with federal immigration officials, unless that cooperation is for an ongoing criminal investigation.
The resolution also establishes an outreach program that will include a Carbondale police officer assigned as a public relations contact to interact with immigrant residents and communicate the Police Department’s policies and function.
The resolution still explicitly allows the town to give information to or receive information from ICE or other agencies about an individual’s legal status. Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson said that language is meant to protect the town.
ICE has recently sought to recruit police departments to help enforce federal immigration law, which would be a voluntary cooperation rather than something required by federal law. That’s the kind of cooperation that would require approval from the board. But the wording of the resolution is also supposed to make clear that the town cannot exempt itself from federal law and could not withhold cooperation if ICE comes in with a warrant, said Richardson.
The mayor said that the process of passing this resolution — for which he gives a lot of credit to the four middle schoolers who brought the proposal — served to better inform him about the basis of distrust in the immigrant community. Richardson said he hopes these new policies will help bridge that gap and promote more trust than existed beforehand.
The students behind the resolution are Jessica Koller, Cassidy Meyer, Vanessa Leon and Keiry Lopez.