Colorado panel weighs immigration enforcement options |

Colorado panel weighs immigration enforcement options

Ivan Moreno
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

GOLDEN, Colo. ” A panel reviewing immigration enforcement in Colorado is considering training jail deputies to spot detainees who are in the country illegally to expedite deportation proceedings and ease overcrowded jails.

The training would be similar to what some law enforcement agencies around the country receive, including Colorado’s State Patrol, to enforce immigration law during the course of their patrolling.

The panel is expected to meet once more before it delivers a final report to Gov. Bill Ritter with its recommendations by the end of the year. Ritter ordered the review by the state Department of Public Safety after a suspected illegal immigrant was accused of causing a September crash at an ice cream store in the Denver suburb of Aurora that killed three, including a 3-year-old boy. Francis M. Hernandez, the suspect in the crash, was arrested on driving violations more than a dozen times by various law enforcement agencies in the state, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it was never notified.

Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, who had previously opposed the federal training known as 287g, now embraces the idea ” as long as it’s used only at jails. ICE pays for the 287g training.

“It’s a change in my public policy because for the longest time I didn’t think that local agencies should do 287g,” Robinson said, explaining that he thinks immigration enforcement is the federal government’s job.

Robinson, who heads the legislative affairs committee for the County Sheriffs of Colorado, said most sheriffs in the state like the idea of having training for jail personnel because it would help quell overcrowding and improve public safety by causing illegal immigrants who have committed violent crimes to be deported. El Paso County has the only jail in the state with deputies who have taken the 287g training.

However, Robinson said he opposes immigration enforcement by patrolling officers because the “immigrant community would be less likely to report crimes” if they see officers as enforcers of immigration laws.

Colorado’s state patrol is among dozens of police agencies nationwide with federal training to identify and detain suspected illegal immigrants. Other law enforcement agencies with the training can be found in California, Georgia, Florida and Arizona.

The panel, which includes state legislators and law enforcement officials, is also considering asking Immigration and Customs Enforcement to expand its capacity to hold illegal immigrants in Wyoming and Colorado. Currently, ICE has about 700 beds at facilities it contracts with in Colorado and Wyoming, said Lance Clem, a spokesman for Colorado’s Department of Public Safety.

Panel members also said they think the federal government should repay the state for what it costs to hold illegal immigrants in Colorado jails. State legislators passed a law in 2006 asking the state attorney general to try to recover those costs.

In an August letter, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers told the state’s congressional delegation that it has cost the state $39.8 million to house illegal immigrants in the last fiscal year but the state has received only about $3.3 million from the federal government.

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