State needs feds’ help enforcing immigration laws, legislator says

Law enforcement officials in Colorado are doing about all they can do to catch illegal immigrants who have committed crimes, an auditors’ report said.

The state, however, could use more help from federal officials, said state Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction.

Auditors on Monday told the Legislative Audit Committee that even though lawmakers passed a law in 2006 making it easier for state authorities to enforce federal immigration laws, there is no way to force the federal government to take action.

“The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service policy of not sharing information with local communities leaves a large gap in the law enforcement process,” King said. “Until this policy is ended, I think we are going to continue to see a lot of dangerous people slipping through the cracks.”

The report cited the deaths of three people last year in an incident in which a car allegedly driven by an illegal immigrant from Guatemala crashed into an ice-cream shop.

The driver had a driving record dating to 2003 but was never turned over to federal immigration agents.

Federal authorities said they were never told the man had been arrested as a suspected illegal immigrant. Colorado Public Safety Director Peter A. Weir said his department modified computer arrest records to highlight suspects who are believed to be in the country illegally so that suspicion isn’t buried in lengthy criminal histories.

State officials, though, are hamstrung by limited local resources, auditors said.

Shared information among agencies is a “great first step in combating this problem,” King said. “However, it is unfortunate that the federal authorities refuse to do more to help solve what in essence is a federal problem.”

Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, said he was concerned some police agencies weren’t complying with provisions of the 2006 law intended to prevent so-called sanctuary cities, where law enforcement officials don’t inquire about immigration status.

Auditors said there was no evidence of noncompliance.

According to a survey by auditors, Weld County made 2,741 reports to ICE agents in 2007. Aurora made 2,532 and Denver 2,088.

They said Grand Junction police reported no illegal immigrants to the federal government that year because they turned them all over to the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, which reported 278 suspected illegal immigrants.


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