Under arrest
Local law enforcement must report on undocumented immigrants
by Naomi Zeveloff

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa says his officers already report arrested undocumented immigrants to the feds.
File Photo
Though local law enforcement officials say there's nothing to worry about, a new law sending more undocumented immigrants to the feds has critics concerned about effects on both police and the immigrant community.
A Colorado Springs resolution, passed Tuesday in compliance with a new state law, mandates that local law enforcement notify the city's Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers when they apprehend suspected undocumented immigrants for any crime. In the past, police reported such individuals who had been arrested for felonies.

"We are taking action against [undocumented immigration, despite] rumors to the contrary," said Councilman Tom Gallagher at Tuesday's council meeting, where the resolution passed unanimously.

But Cathryn Hazouri, executive director of the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says this action places added burdens on officers.

"They will have to develop some finely tuned procedures," she says. "It is more complicated than [police officers] think it is, and that is a problem. If they are not aware of what the standards will be for determining if someone is here illegally, then they are going to have to ask every person they arrest."

The state law, passed in May, is also known as the "anti-sanctuary bill" because it punishes local governments that provide protections for undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary cities safeguard immigrants by discouraging police officers from working with immigration officials.

Localities that don't comply are at risk of losing Homeland Security dollars from the federal government. El Paso, Teller, Lake, Park and Chaffee counties received a combined total of $1.8 million in Homeland Security funding this year, which went toward anti-terrorism projects such as training to dismantle explosive bomb equipment.

While Hazouri claims that it will be difficult for police to identify undocumented immigrants when few people carry proof of citizenship, CSPD spokesman Sgt. Tim Stankey says the new regulations will not be too taxing on the police department. Reporting techniques will change, but little else will.

"I don't think it would be a significant drain on our resources," he says.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa says his office already reports small-time offenders to ICE. County officers will put resources toward reporting the numbers of undocumented immigrants apprehended to the Colorado General Assembly, another requirement of the new legislation.

Even if the change doesn't mean more work for officers, Hazouri says the new law might deteriorate the already tenuous relationship between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.

"One thing that is really important is that the police notify the [immigrant] community that they are not looking for undocumented people, and that they are only going to report the people who were already arrested," she says. "Immigrants need to understand that if somebody breaks into their homes, they can still call the police because they are the victims of the crime, and not the perpetrators.

"There is some need for education [on this issue] in the immigrant community."