Colorado immigrant rights advocates demand end to ‘cruel’ child separations | PostIndependent.com

Colorado immigrant rights advocates demand end to ‘cruel’ child separations

Matthew Bennett
mabennett@postindependent

As the immigration debate has evolved from that of Dreamers wanting their fair shot at the American Dream to sobbing children being separated from their parents under President Trump's "zero tolerance" policy, Colorado immigrants rights leaders are speaking out.

"You may have seen pictures online of the children in cages," Immigration Hub Executive Director Tyler Moran said Tuesday during a telephone press conference with reporters.

"I have been to that facility when I worked for Senator [Harry] Reid, they call it 'the dog pound,'" he said. "In fact, there are almost 50 parents in a detention facility in Aurora right now whose children were taken from them."

While a lot of media attention has focused heavily on family separation at the Mexican border, the outcry from both Republicans and Democrats has resonated throughout the entire country, the state of Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley.

According to the 2010 census, the Hispanic/Latino population comprised 7.5 percent of Aspen, 6 percent of Snowmass, 20.3 percent of Basalt, 39.7 percent of El Jebel, 39.3 percent of Carbondale and 31.5 percent of Glenwood Springs.

"Right now, up in your region we have Sandra [Lopez] in sanctuary," Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition Executive Director Nicole Melaku noted.

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"She actually called police because of a domestic violence disturbance, and they ended up taking her into the local jail for processing, then starting the deportation dragnet for her," Melaku explained. "So she was ripped away from her family and is choosing to live in sanctuary right there in your very own neighborhood as a result of our current, broken immigration laws.

"There is national attention on the border and the family separation policy, but it is happening all over our country when families are taken from one another," she said.

Under the current administration, she said there has been a 171 percent increase in noncriminal arrests.

Moran, who used to work for the Obama administration, said that during President Obama's two terms in office a priority procedure was implemented as it pertained to detaining undocumented, illegal immigrants where law enforcement officials would focus efforts on those who posed a threat to national security, border security or homeland security.

"Under the Trump administration they have eliminated all prioritization so anyone who is undocumented — according to the head of ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], quote unquote — has a 'target on their back,'" Moran said.

Melaku explained what would happen if an undocumented person gets pulled over for a routine traffic stop along Highway 82 or elsewhere.

"Under the Fourth and Fifth Amendment, ICE cannot hold people without probable cause," she said. "So typically folks would be pulled over and if the officer was going above and beyond their call of duty, or … in some level deputized by ICE to bring them in for further questioning, they go into the local jail, they get fingerprinted."

If there is found to be an immigration hold on that individual, that person can be held "by arrangements between ICE and local sheriff's departments," and eventually sent to an ICE facility, Melaku explained.

"Obviously, from the moment they were pulled over they would have been taken away from their work, their family wherever that would be," she said, emphasizing that it's not just a border separation issue.

On Monday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter to Congress, specifically to Sens. Mitch McConnell and Charles Schumer, as well as U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi, calling the policy of separating children from their families "cruel and un-American."

"We really do need more people in power and in the state speaking out about this cruel decision to use children as bargaining chips," Moran said. "It should not really matter what someone feels about immigration or the border, this is an issue of right and wrong."