Petitioners ask feds, sheriff to rein in festival crackdowns

Some local political leaders, event organizers and businesses are asking U.S. immigration agents and Garfield County Sheriff’s Department deputies to refrain from conducting more operations like one that occurred at Strawberry Days in Glenwood Springs over Father’s Day weekend.

The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition said Wednesday that ICE enforcement operations such as the one in Glenwood Springs violate the agency’s policy against conducting them in sensitive locations where families and children may be present.

“We demand that ICE and the Garfield County Sheriff cease and desist from conducting overly aggressive ICE enforcement operations at our community fairs and festivals,” the petition says.

Petition signers include Amy Kimberly, director of the upcoming Carbondale Mountain Fair; Carbondale town trustee Ed Cortez, who said his town “prides itself on tolerance;” county Democratic Party Chair Jack Real, who worried that aggressive enforcement suggests the county “is not welcoming to tourist dollars;” and a number of businesses catering to local Latinos. Club Rotario of Glenwood Springs fears a drop in attendance at its Festival de las Americas in August.

The Strawberry Days operation, which focused on the festival’s carnival, resulted in the arrests of David Centeno and Julio Armando-Alvarez Cortez, who have criminal records and have been deported previously, the Sheriff’s Department said in a news release. Re-entry into the United States after deportation is a felony.

A third man, Cesar Armando Alvarez-Cortez, Julio’s brother, was issued a summons and released after it was determined he had an expired work authorization card but no prior deportations, and he told authorities he was a widower with two daughters, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, a Republican, and ICE have defended the crackdown.

“The operation was designed to exclusively target known local gang members,” ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said in a statement.

The Sheriff’s Department had indicated to ICE that gang members had disrupted the festival in past years.

Vallario, in a news release, said county communities won’t tolerate illegal gang activity.

“We will utilize the necessary tools that are available to us, including federal law enforcement, to eradicate these criminals. It was no more complex than that,” Vallario said.

The agencies said a multijurisdictional Threat Assessment Group contacted about 20 other gang members and had them remove gang-related clothing while at the fair to make it safe for families.


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