Immigrant Community Braces For Coordinated ICE Enforcement In Denver

July 12, 2019
Immigrant Welcome Banner over steps of Denver City and County BuildingImmigrant Welcome Banner over steps of Denver City and County BuildingAP Photo/David Zalubowski
A banner to welcome immigrants hangs over the main entrance to the Denver City and County Building in February 2018.

Planned immigration enforcement actions ordered by President Trump are scheduled to begin Sunday in 10 major U.S. cities, including Denver, and it has Colorado's immigrant population on edge.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be targeting families, adults who came into the country as unaccompanied minors and other people who have removal orders, according to immigrant rights organization Immigration Hub. The wave of enforcement activity could last until Thursday, immigrant advocates say.

Denver city workers will be standing by to help separated families, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Friday.

"We will not allow for any child to be left to be vulnerable," Hancock said. "We'll do everything we can to make sure [the children are] taken care of, safe, secure and hopefully to be placed with a secondary family member."

Denver Police will not assist federal immigration officials, according to Hancock.

"I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'm feeling threatened," said Christian Solano Cordova, a DACA recipient who works with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. "I'm ashamed that we've come to this point where we've been able to 'other' my community to the point where so many people don't care at all. It just makes me sick to my stomach to know that there are people that are actively egging it on, that are excited about it, that tell me that, 'Every Mexican gone is more opportunity' for them."

He said it reminds him of when he visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

"The first time I saw the word 'deported' in that museum I started to bawl and I could not stop for three hours," Solano said. "It really hit me that there were German people calling for Jewish people to be uprooted from their homes, to be able to take all their wealth, to take their spot in society. It makes me sick that an echo of that is happening now."

The coalition works with the Colorado Rapid Response Network. It runs a hotline for ICE activity and educates people on their due process rights. The network sends trained volunteers to confirm whether or not a hotline tip is legitimately ICE enforcement activity. If it is, Solano said, an observer is sent out to film the interaction.

Solano had to have a difficult conversation this week with his family, some of whom are undocumented.

"We're doing everything we can to be prepared," he said. "And I think, you know, maybe just for Sunday night we might take some special precaution. The plan is to have all of our documents in a row. I had to have some paperwork ready to go in case my mom is detained, that I would be able to take custody of my baby sister who is 11."

Solano says ICE often uses paperwork that looks like a judicially approved arrest warrant to gain access to people's homes. He's told his own mother not to open her front door.

"Now, I'm kind of considering telling her to come over to my place and spend the night instead," he said.

ICE has not responded to calls for comment. In June, they told CPR that their deportation officers carry out targeted enforcement operations like this every day.