ICE Rails Against Sanctuary City Policies, But Still Makes Dozens of Arrests In Colorado, Wyoming

Changes to the expedited removal process allow low-level immigration officers to determine if an undocumented immigrant has been living in the U.S. for less than two years.

From Colorado to Wyoming, 42 undocumented people were arrested by ICE in the last five days.

“These arrests represent what we do every day to keep communities safe,” said John Fabbricatore, Denver’s acting field office director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at a news conference Thursday. “Working with ICE is not an immigration issue, it is a public safety issue.”

The arrests happened from El Paso County to Casper, Wyoming. Most of the individuals had previous criminal histories, Fabbricatore said. Nine have pending criminal charges.

Fabbricatore said despite these arrests, it’s become more challenging for ICE to do its job since July 12, when Denver braced for planned immigration enforcement. People who disapprove of ICE and compare the agency to concentration camps, for example, are also affecting his employees’ morale, he said. 

“My employees believe in what they do. They believe in upholding the law, and they believe in keeping the community safe,” he said. “Every day they go out and they strap on a badge and a gun and they kiss their wife or husband and their children goodbye and they go out on the street with the potential of them getting shot because of this rhetoric.”

In July, ICE protesters pulled down the American flag outside the Aurora detention facility. Last week, three people were arrested as protesters organized outside the home of the warden who oversees that facility. Protests continued into the weekend.

When word of the planned ICE enforcement happened in the summer, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the city stands will immigrant and refugee families. He tweeted the phone number to Colorado’s Rapid Response Network.

Dispatchers with that group have fielded 819 calls about immigration enforcement since 2017. It has shared information regarding possible immigration enforcement 38 times, according to a news release.

Gov. Jared Polis signed a sanctuary law earlier this year that prohibits Colorado police from complying with ICE detainers.

Fabbricatore said sanctuary laws and declined detainers slow the agency down and make it harder to do immigration enforcement.  

“When these detainers don't get honored, ICE is left to try to apprehend these individuals before they harm anyone else,” he said. “We need the help of local law enforcement to keep the community safe. It is our belief that the state sanctuary policy does not do that.” 

Nationally, 1,300 arrests were made this week. Of those arrested, ICE said 199 people could have been arrested at a jail if its detainers had been honored.

In fiscal year 2019, ICE lodged more than 160,000 detainers with local law enforcement. About 70 percent of the arrests ICE makes happen after the agency is notified about an undocumented person being released from a local jail or state prison.

At a White House press briefing Thursday, ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence said sanctuary policies threaten public safety. He said local jurisdictions who refuse to cooperate with the agency are complicit in the crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and called on people to hold lawmakers accountable. 

“It is frustrating to see senseless acts of violence and other criminal activity happen in our communities knowing ICE could have prevented them with just a little cooperation,” he said.