GOP bill takes aim at ‘sanctuary’ cities and counties in Colorado

DENVER — A Republican bill to penalize Colorado cities and counties that provide sanctuaries against deportation for undocumented residents surrenders local control to the federal government, Democrats say.

The measure, which won preliminary approval in the Colorado Senate on Monday, is aimed at local government policies that bar cooperating with federal authorities when it comes to illegal “aliens,” a word the bill uses.

But Sen. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, said SB281 violates the Fourth and 10th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Kagan said the state shouldn’t give up its 10th Amendment rights by ceding authority over its own local governments to the federal government, as he said the bill would do.

He said the term “sanctuary city” has no specific definition, and could include all county sheriffs who have stopped holding suspected undocumented residents in their jails because the federal government won’t pay the cost of incarcerating them until they are picked up by immigration authorities, as the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office did temporarily in 2009.

Under the bill, any Colorado city and county that the federal government deems to be a “sanctuary city” would lose all funds they get from the federal government.

“We cannot be commandeered by the federal government,” Kagan said. “We shouldn’t leave it entirely up to the federal government to decide which of our jurisdictions need to be punished. We should at least have a say in the matter.”

Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, who introduced the measure with Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, said there is no 10th Amendment problem with the bill, calling that a red herring.

He said local governments get money from the federal government for various things, and it’s reasonable for them to place requirements on how that money is spent.

“When sanctuary city policies are adopted, the public safety is put at risk,” Neville said. “Therefore, it makes a lot of sense that the federal government would have some kind of a say in that, the same as we do here when we take a look at issues that we deal with.”

Kagan also said the state’s law enforcement groups, namely the County Sheriffs of Colorado and the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, oppose the bill because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that an administrative warrant from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t qualify as a bona fide arrest warrant under the Fourth Amendment, which is needed to detain someone, Kagan said.

“You can’t detain someone pursuant to an administrative warrant from ICE,” he said. “Under the Fourth Amendment, you simply are not allowed to do that, and the sheriffs have noted that they are not allowed under the Fourth Amendment to re-arrest someone ... without a proper judicial warrant.”

Other Democrats argued that the bill would have a chilling effect on some people’s cooperation with police because of fears that they, a family member or a friend might be deported.

The bill requires a final vote in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, before it can head to the Colorado House, where Democrats have the majority.


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