Denver’s immigration ordinance has had a chilling effect on police operations, especially when investigating immigrants who are dealing heroin, the Denver police union’s president plans to say Thursday before a congressional committee.
Nick Rogers, president of the Denver Police Protective Association, will testify Thursday morning before a U.S. House judiciary committee that he and other narcotics detectives can no longer share intelligence with federal ICE agents or call them for assistance because of the ordinance. Rogers’ prepared remarks were posted Wednesday on the committee’s website. The hearing begins at 7 a.m.
“This ordinance has created, in my opinion, a city that is much less safe than it was prior to this ordinance,” the prepared remarks said.
Rogers’ stance puts him and the police union, which represents 1,350 officers, in direct conflict with the Denver Police Department administration and Mayor Michael Hancock. The city’s leaders insist its law enforcement has no business enforcing federal immigration laws. Rather, its police officers need to build relationships in the immigrant community to help prevent crime and enforce state and local criminal laws.
Denver police Deputy Chief Matt Murray would not specifically respond to Rogers’ remarks or his decision to testify before Congress.
“There are some people who feel like this ordinance inhibits their ability to prosecute crime,” Murray said. “We could not feel stronger in the opposite direction.”
The ordinance does not restrict officers from cooperating with federal authorities in criminal investigations or prevent sheriff’s deputies from holding people who are in the country illegally if ICE agents have an arrest warrant, Murray said.
“Our job is to prosecute criminals, not deal with a person’s civil status in this country. We respect that ICE has that job and they do that job. We don’t inhibit them from doing their job.We just don’t participate,” Murray said. “I would also tell you this debate loses sight of the fact we don’t enforce FAA regulations, either. We don’t enforce USDA inspections on cattle. We don’t enforce any federal law. We’re a municipal police agency.”
Rogers was invited to testify by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colorado, who said he hopes Denver City Council will insert an exception into the city ordinance that would allow officers to cooperate and communicate with ICE when a person living in the country illegally is involved in heroin trafficking. He said it is in the interest of the entire state of Colorado and other western states because Denver is a hub for heroin in the Rocky Mountain region.
“I hope to make sure the city of Denver understands I’m not asking Denver police to conduct raids of businesses or stop individuals on the street because they speak Spanish,” Buck said. “We have a very serious heroin epidemic in this country.”