Aurora City Council Defeats Sanctuary and Legal Defense Fund Bills
FAIR Take | January 2021
At the first Aurora City meeting of the new year, a slim majority defeated the second of two highly contested immigration proposals. The polarized council reached a split decision on both bills, which resulted in Mayor Mike Coffman (R-Aurora City) breaking the tie.
The first bill would have created a legal defense fund for illegal aliens to provide them with representation during immigration removal proceedings. According to Councilmember, and co-sponsor, Crystal Murillo, as reported by Westword, “[w]e want to advance the foundational ideal of this country that people have the right to legal counsel and that we’re protecting the sanctity of our families, children and communities.” Illegal aliens are allowed to receive or hire counsel, but providing taxpayer-funded representation to illegal aliens contradicts federal law. In the United States, federal law prohibits state and local governments from funding counsel to those in the country illegally. (8 U.S.C. 1229a(b)(4); 8 U.S.C. 1362)
Moreover, providing taxpayer-funded legal representation supports a politicized agenda instead of directing resources to the community’s needs. Free legal representation is generally unavailable to citizens or legal aliens who face civil legal issues, such as foreclosures, eviction proceedings, child custody cases, or divorce proceedings and is patently unfair to citizens and legal residents who are stuck footing the bill for illegal aliens.
Although Colorado has already enacted a state sanctuary law, the second bill would have further tied law enforcement’s hands in Aurora. The proposed ordinance, rejected by the Council on December 21, would have prevented all Aurora City officials, including police, from using funds and information to assist federal immigration officers unless a judicial warrant is presented by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official. This provision was aimed at negating immigration enforcement altogether since judicial warrants for immigration enforcement don’t exist. Moreover, the Immigration and Nationality Act does not include any regulatory provisions for a federal judge to issue a detainer or warrant.
In addition, the sanctuary bill would have prevented federal immigration authorities from conducting business in any building or facility, owned or leased by the city, without a signed warrant.
Director of Denver ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Field Office John Fabbricatore vehemently opposed the sanctuary legislation. He warned that if the legislation passed, “It would become harder to detain people with serious criminal charges if Aurora police weren't allowed to arrange a transfer with ICE. As a result, ICE officers would need to arrest individuals in the community.”
Co-sponsor and Councilmember Alison Coombs reiterated support for the safe space – sanctuary city – legislation. “It’s really important that people in our community know that when they are living here, working and contributing, they know that they can be safe, and that they can access city services and city programs.”
Although both bills were defeated, Councilmember Coombs stated that the minority plans to carry both ordinances to the council floor for another vote.