Summit County works to dispel rumors in the immigrant community |

Summit County works to dispel rumors in the immigrant community

Past participants of the Latino Police Academy learn about traffic stops. The Summit County Sheriff's Office works with local police departments to put toghether the program and introduce the community to law enforcement.
Summit Daily File Photo |

Summit County officials have joined the Family and Intercultural Resource Center in the hopes of easing tensions with the immigration community.

Last Friday, the Summit School District Board of Education voted to approve a resolution on making local schools a safe environment for all students.

“We are dedicated to protecting our students’ confidential information and ensuring that our students’ learning environments are not disrupted by immigration enforcement actions,” the resolution states.

The resolution outlines what schools in Summit County can do to help protect students. The district does not require proof of citizenship for new or returning students. The resolution also says that the district cannot give out information on students without the proper paperwork, such as a court order.

The recent approval is the latest action taken by Summit County organizations. A “Know Your Rights” event was recently put together by FIRC. The organization saw a high turnout, said Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons. The event was meant to help dispel rumors going around about immigration crackdown.

“The immigrant community is so important in this county,” FitzSimons said. “Just as if there was fear running through any part of this community, we would want to quash that fear.”

Tamara Drangstveit, the executive director at FIRC, said that rumors can start quickly in this political climate. She added that the organization has noticed a lower turnout at recent events, which some of their clients have attributed to concerns about the current mood surrounding immigration policy.

“We do know from our clients that they are very concerned about what’s going on,” Drangstveit said. “We all want to make sure that everyone feels safe so that they’re not taken advantage of, because often people who don’t feel safe are easy victims and we don’t want that to happen in our community.”

A video of the full event, as well as additional information on immigrant rights, can be found on FIRC’s website.

On the county level, some of the people in Summit may abandon resources they are eligible for, such as childcare, because they are afraid of giving away their immigration status. Sarah Vaine, an assistant county manager in Summit, said that it’s important for locals to base that decision off of true information instead of rumors. She added that the county wants people to feel safe enough to come into their offices and ask questions.

“We want to be seen as a safe place and not a scary place or a hostile place,” she said.

Vaine said her children have benefited from the diversity in Summit. Both of her kids attended Dillon Valley Elementary, which offers dual language programming.

Although the county has not formally taken action, the commissioners want to continue participating in education events, and making sure that officials are there for the community.

“We, as the county commissioners, were absolutely unified in that we appreciate the diversity, it’s a great asset in our community,” said Karn Stiegelmeier, a Summit County commissioner. “I wish we were in a situation where we were celebrating diversity.”

FitzSimons, who works with both FIRC as well as the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition, said that people who attended the “Know Your Rights” event can now help get the word out to others in Summit.

“It was important to get together with them and hear their concerns, hear the rumors and dispel them and the myth, and it was just as important for me that these people then go back out into the community and say they were at this meeting and they talked to law enforcement, that we reaffirmed with them that we are not immigration enforcement,” he said.

The sheriff’s office also puts on a Latino Police Academy every other year to help introduce the community to law enforcement. The program will run once a week over a four-week period starting in April. The sessions will be done in Spanish and will go over different subjects every night. One session will be on immigration and how it relates to law enforcement. The program involves all of the police departments in Summit.

FitzSimons also stressed that his office has an open dialogue with its federal partners and will know if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is coming to the county.

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