No Tolerance for Intolerance

(May 3) – A bill to force Colorado law enforcement agencies to do the work of federal immigration agents died today in the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee.

SB17-281, sponsored in the House by Reps. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, and Phil Covarrubias, R-Brighton, revived a bill killed earlier this year that would have violated the constitution and impeded community trust in law enforcement, reducing its ability to keep people safe. Today’s bill would have:

  • subjected elected officials in vaguely defined “sanctuary jurisdictions” to civil damages for any crime committed by any undocumented person within that jurisdiction;
  • forced local law enforcement officials to detain people without a warrant, violating the Fourth Amendment, inviting expensive lawsuits and creating an unfunded mandate; and
  • corrupted law enforcement’s mission of keeping people safe.The County Sheriffs of Colorado testified against involving the local police in federal immigration matters because law enforcement becomes impossible when people are afraid to talk to the police.

“It’s too bad that we’ve had to discuss this bill again,” said Rep. Mike Foote, the chairman of the State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee. “I’m glad we won’t have to debate this unconstitutional bill again for the rest of the session.”

“I would urge anyone who cares very deeply about changing the status of immigration laws to contact our congressional delegation,” said Rep. Edie Hooton, D-Boulder.

“This bill would allow the federal government to dictate to Colorado what our law enforcement should be prioritizing, taking their eye off going after the most serious and violent crimes,” said Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Adams County.

“This kind of legislation drives witnesses underground, it drives victims underground, it deprives the law enforcement process of evidence,” said Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora.

“The Constitution does not just apply only to citizens – it applies to all residents,” said Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora. “When you are talking about violating someone’s Fourth Amendment rights by detaining them without a warrant or without probable cause, that becomes problematic.”

Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, read a message received recently by a family in Longmont. “You and your family should not be in this white neighborhood,” the message read. “You and your brown boys are not welcome. Go back where you came from. You’re in Trump’s country now.”

“This is the kind of the environment that this sort of policy creates,” Rep. Lontine told the committee. “And that is incredibly harmful.”

The vote on SB17-281 was along party lines, with the six Democrats voting against the bill and Reps. Tim Leonard, R-Evergreen, and Stephen Humphrey, R-Eaton, joining Rep. Williams in supporting it.

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