4 counties join lawsuit saying Colorado immigration laws violate state, federal rules

DENVER (KDVR) — Douglas County officials filed an amended complaint that included Elbert, Garfield, Mesa and Rio Blanco counties on Monday, another step in Douglas County’s challenge to two Colorado immigration laws.

Douglas and El Paso counties filed the lawsuit in mid-April to try and force the state of Colorado to allow sheriff’s deputies to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. According to Douglas County, the six counties in the lawsuit represent 25% of the state’s population.

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The counties are arguing that the state and Gov. Jared Polis have instated “unconstitutional immigration laws.”

In a press conference held on April 15, Douglas County Commissioner George Teal said the state’s immigration crisis is due to federal policies along the southern border that “resulted in an unlimited string of illegal immigrants into our communities.” However, the lawsuit is fighting two state laws:

  • House Bill 19-1124, “Protect Colorado Residents From Federal Government Overreach,” according to the text, allows law enforcement officers or employees to cooperate or assist federal immigration authorities in the execution of a federal warrant, but prohibits law enforcement from arresting or detaining individuals based solely on a civil immigration detainer

    • The measure also prohibits probation officers from providing an individual’s personal information to federal immigration authorities

    • The measure also ensures that individuals who are to be interviewed via telephone or video with a federal immigration authority are informed of their rights

  • House Bill 23-1100, “Restrict Government Involvement in Immigration Detention,” prohibits employees of state or local government agencies from entering into intergovernmental agreements allowing for law enforcement to rent bed space to ICE

    • The measure also terminated two such agreements in the state

Because of these laws, Douglas County, alongside the other five counties, is arguing that the measures violate:

  • The intergovernmental relationships provision of the Colorado Constitution, which prevents laws that restrict local governments from cooperating with the federal government

  • The Separation of Powers provision in the Colorado Constitution because the “legislature is directing judicial employees”

  • The constitutional amendment publication requirements, that “require publication of laws being affected by a statute to prevent confusion”

  • The U.S. Supremacy Clause, which prohibits state laws from violating federal law

“The most critical role of government is to protect its citizens,” Douglas County Sheriff Darren Weekly said in a release that accompanied the April 15 news conference. “I believe this action is absolutely necessary to allow law enforcement to work with our federal partners to help keep all of Colorado safe.”

Pro-migrant groups have called the lawsuit a “dangerous step.”

“I think that’s dangerous for everyone. If I was a resident in Douglas or El Paso county, I would be very concerned about my sheriffs saying publicly they would do anything to collude with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and put our communities at risk,” American Friends Service Committee Member Jennifer Piper told FOX31’s Vicente Arenas said on April 15.

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Douglas County has been active in its attempts to keep migrants out of its borders, starting in October with a resolution affirming that the county is not a sanctuary jurisdiction (Denver has declared itself such), and continuing with other measures, including:

  • A public health order setting forth requirements for sheltering migrants in Douglas County, which was extended in March

  • A letter to the Metro Area County Commissioners in support of expedited employment

  • An emergency ordinance to prohibit commercial vehicle drivers from stopping and unloading passengers in unincorporated Douglas County “other than at planned, scheduled and documented destinations”

  • A letter to Denver Mayor Mike Johnston asking he repeal two sanctuary laws

Douglas County’s efforts are not alone. Recently, the Weld County Commissioners announced a unanimous measure to prevent the use of public funds for migrant sheltering and El Paso County officials have also been vocal about not wanting to shelter migrants.

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