Forum participants speak out on their SRO concerns

John Stroud
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE, Colorado – A young mother from Carbondale tells the story of having her children witness three visits from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers at their home.

On the second visit, her husband was arrested and detained for immigration violations.

“I know immigration has a job to do,” Olga said through a Spanish translator before a crowd of about 250 people, mostly Latino families and students, gathered at The Orchard church in Carbondale Thursday night.

But in each instance, she said her older children recognized one of the police officers accompanying the federal agents as their Carbondale school resource officer.

“If immigration has to do this, they should do it alone, and not with the resource officers,” Olga said at a community forum sponsored by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) and the local student advocacy group Asociacion de Jovenes Unidos en Accion (AJUA), or Students United in Action.

That same Carbondale police officer also showed up during a similar ICE contact at a Rifle home last year, according to Maricela who, like Olga, preferred that her last name not be used.

“They surrounded the house and said they were there for my child,” Maricela said. “One of the immigration officers got mad and pulled out a gun … and the resource officer was very rude. They should not collaborate with ICE.”

AJUA and CIRC recently called attention to the practice of local school resource police officers, in particular Carbondale officer Alvaro Agon, collaborating with ICE.

Although the collaboration through the inter-agency anti-gang task force is aimed at curbing gang-related activities in schools, the groups say the SRO involvement has crossed the line into immigration matters.

That has created an uneasy environment for children of immigrant families in schools, and caused students to be suspicious about the otherwise worthy SRO program, the groups say.

The groups are calling on the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 to adopt a policy prohibiting local police officers who are assigned to the SRO position from also working with ICE.

Local police chiefs, elected officials and school district officials were invited to attend the forum. However, only two Re-1 school board members and two candidates currently running for open seats on the board were in attendance.

Those who spoke Thursday were asked not to refer to anyone by name. However, Tom Adgate, an attorney representing Officer Agon, spoke openly in his client’s defense.

“Maybe you can talk in code, but I’m not going to do that,” he said. “Your organization has published lies about Alvaro, and you should be ashamed.”

This week, Adgate filed a defamation of character lawsuit on Agon’s behalf against CIRC and one of its local organizers, Brendan Greene.

“He is a police officer first, and sometimes he has to arrest people,” Adgate told the crowd. “In our community we don’t believe criminals should be allowed to hide behind their kids’ coloring books …

“He protects you, he loves you, and he is saddened by these lies against him,” Adgate said.

AJUA spokesman Alex Alvarado, a Roaring Fork High School graduate and current Colorado Mountain College student, suggested that police officers who have worked directly with ICE be barred from doing SRO work for three to five years afterwards.

Rather than collaborating with ICE to prevent gang activity in schools, he said police should use models such as the national Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has also joined CIRC and AJUA in supporting a policy prohibiting SRO collaboration with ICE.

The Re-1 school board says it will consider a policy related to the district’s involvement in the SRO program. CIRC and AJUA are encouraging people to attend the Thursday, Oct. 27, school board meeting at 9 a.m. in Glenwood Springs, where the issue is expected to be discussed.

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