Denver, CO

Denver spends $750,000 to help immigrants fight deportation

David Heitz

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By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Denver likely will spend $750,000 on legal services for immigrants.

The expense is on Wednesday's Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee consent agenda. The consent agenda contains routine matters. Unless a City Council member calls it out, the contract passes without discussion.

With the $750,000, it brings the city’s total support to $1.45 million for the Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund. The Denver Foundation manages the fund.

The mayor created the fund by executive order in August 2017. The fund awards grants to organizations that provide immigration legal services to eligible Denver residents facing deportation and other legal issues.

The fund paid for services to 469 immigrants between September 2018 and December 2020. The $750,000 would allow the fund to serve about that many people through the end of 2022.

Residents must be indigent or at 200 percent of the federal poverty level to receive services. That means they cannot make more than $27,180 annually for a single person. Non-profits may use the money to hire lawyers to offer free or discounted services.

More than 50,000 undocumented live in Denver

An estimated 50,000 undocumented immigrants live in Denver, according to the foundation. "Many of these immigrants work and are connected to family members with varying types of legal status," the foundation's website reports. "Legal status is the primary barrier to successful integration into the U.S. for immigrants, yet access to affordability of legal representation create significant challenges."

According to a foundation news release, the fund awarded $515,000 in grants to seven non-profit organizations in December. They include Catholic Charities, Center for Trauma and Resilience, Colorado Asylum Center, International Rescue Committee, Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Center, Lutheran Social Services, and Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network.

"Denver truly thrives when our immigrant communities' experiences, skills, and perspectives are an integral part of our city's narrative," Mayor Michael Hancock explains in the news release. "We know firsthand what permanent pathways to lawful immigration status mean for our residents and recognize the importance of providing those opportunities for access to due process and keeping families together. I appreciate the partnership with City Council, which has ensured that this fund is not compromised."

Immigrants detained without lawyers

Deportation proceedings are the only legal action in the country where authorities detain people without offering access to representation, according to the news release. Immigrants are more than 10 times likely to stay in the United States when they have a lawyer.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, uses detainers to gain custody of undocumented immigrants. Detainers are notices to other law enforcement agencies of the immigrant's criminal history and immigration violations.

Denver's sanctuary city status

But Denver is a so-called sanctuary city, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. This means the city's laws, policies and practices "obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from ICE — either by refusing to or prohibiting agencies from complying with ICE detainers, imposing unreasonable conditions on detainer acceptance, denying ICE access to interview incarcerated aliens, or otherwise impeding communication or information exchanges between their personnel and federal immigration officers," the center's website reports.

Aurora also is a sanctuary city. Sanctuary counties in the metro area include Boulder, Arapahoe, Jefferson and Weld.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

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