Following Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman’s statement regarding the Aurora Police Departments’ cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), advocates including the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU of Colorado), and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) expressed concern that the Mayor’s remarks send the wrong message to the Aurora community and local law enforcement.
“The truth is, no police department, sheriff, or elected leader should be colluding with ICE. This is an agency that has demonstrated repeatedly a clear pattern of abuse and neglect.”
Gladis Ibarra, CIRC
On December 3, Mayor Coffman posted on Facebook and Twitter that: “Unlike Denver, where law enforcement is instructed to go out of their way not to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Aurora does cooperate by allowing ICE to pick up detainees, who are being held as suspects in criminal cases, and who are illegally in the country. However, we cannot hold detainees beyond the 72 hours that are authorized under state law. After 72 hours, a detainee, irrespective of their immigration status, must either be given a court date and released or transferred to a county jail. The Aurora Police Department does not enforce federal immigration laws, but we should continue to cooperate with ICE when we can.”
“The truth is, no police department, sheriff, or elected leader should be colluding with ICE. This is an agency that has demonstrated repeatedly a clear pattern of abuse and neglect. This is especially true in Aurora, home of ICE’s GEO Detention Facility, which it runs as a de facto prison for Coloradans who are also immigrants,” said Gladis Ibarra, Campaign Manager for CIRC.
In the past, Mayor Mike Coffman has expressed his support for immigrant communities in Aurora, recently stating that addressing immigrant issues is a priority for him and that he believes everyone should be welcome in Aurora.
But immigrant rights organizations believe Mayor Coffman’s comments discourage Aurora residents from reaching out to local law enforcement in emergency situations. “We know that increased collusion with ICE only compromises community public safety by keeping victims and witnesses of crime in the shadows,” said Denise Maes, Public Policy Director at the ACLU of Colorado. “Our communities are strongest when there is mutual trust and respect.”
Advocates are calling on the City of Aurora and the Mayor to champion policy practices that build accountability and trust between law enforcement and community rather than division. “We call on the Aurora city council to pass ordinances creating clear guidance and expectations that local law enforcement should be there to protect and to serve every resident. We also encourage the council to conduct a thorough review of the Aurora police department’s practices and training. Our Denver membership is proud of the safer policies passed there and monitors their implementation. The whole city has benefited,” stated Jennifer Piper, American Friends Service Committee.
Aurora is home to the GEO Detention Facility where there have been frequent coronavirus outbreaks since the pandemic began. Multiple human rights organizations, Inspector General reports and eyewitness accounts have painted a grim picture of life inside the facility. Common reports include overcrowding, abuse and complete neglect for the safety and health of people held there by ICE officers and GEO staff. Despite this and court orders, ICE has refused to release most medically vulnerable people and continues to arrest and detain people from across the state in high numbers.
“The severity and frequency of covid-19 outbreaks in GEO demonstrate the lack of care ICE shows for the people they detain. Detaining people indefinitely in a dangerously infected space is a human rights violation as well as a public health risk for the city of Aurora. Instead of boasting about his city’s collusion with ICE, Mayor Coffman should be demanding an end to the medical neglect and public health risks at the GEO Detention Facility.” said Jordan García of the American Friends Service Committee.
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