New patrol unit to start enforcing immigration laws |

New patrol unit to start enforcing immigration laws

DENVER – A new Colorado State Patrol unit will help enforce federal immigration laws beginning July 1 now that 22 troopers have completed a five-week training program, raising concerns that such a move will further drive immigrants underground.The patrol’s Immigration Enforcement Unit, the first of its kind in Colorado and only the 17th in the nation, will seek to curb possible human trafficking violations and other criminal activity, according to Capt. Jon Barba of the patrol, who will over see the unit. Unit members will have the authority to process and detain suspected illegal immigrants under an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that is commonly called section 287 (g).Previously, only ICE and the FBI could detain suspected illegal immigrants.”Basically what it means is that it goes back to determining immigration status…the officers will be able to identify, determine their immigration status, and begin the appropriate process to have them repatriated,” said Barba.Lisa Duran, executive director of Rights for All People, said public safety officers enforcing immigration regulation is a bad idea.”It drives many immigrants further underground,” she said. “Many are working families with citizen children. That means they’re afraid to go to law enforcement on what might be immigration consequences.”Barba said the Denver ICE office told the patrol they were impressed with the caliber of officers.Each of the unit’s officers have taken five tests, and have been members of the Colorado State Patrol for at least two years. The troopers will receive their ICE training certificates in a ceremony Wednesday. Their average score in the program was 94.14, highest ever for the course, the patrol said.Despite the training, Duran said immigration laws change so much and so often, it’s close to impossible to keep up. And the issue is too wide in scope to be regulated on such a small scale.”Our system of immigration is broken, and needs a complete overhaul. We need to solve it at the federal level and not by nickel and diming our public safety away,” she said.”Immigration regulation is convoluted and obscure, and immigration attorneys, who have for years been dedicated solely, full-time, to understanding the changes that come down the pike, struggle to keep up to date.”Kenneth Stern, a Denver lawyer who specializes in immigration law said the training should be both broad and specific, or troubles, like the ones Duran is wary of, could arise.”This is the most recent in a long line of provisions to allow law enforcement officials to work with ICE,” he said. “The problem is there usually isn’t training for local law enforcement agents. So the possibility for the wrong people to be detained is quite high. It makes immigrants very reluctant to cooperate with local law if they feel they’ll share information with ICE.”Similar 287(g) setups across the country have come under some fire since their inception. Immigrant-rights leaders say the possibility for deportation for a crime such as driving without a license is excessive.But Barba stressed the unit will not perform some of the tasks the ICE does.”We’re, again, not doing business raids, not looking at agricultural fields,” he said. “This is purely a traffic safety perspective for us.”This isn’t a unit that is going to be driving up and down the highways looking for loads of Hispanics to pull over and see what they’ve got.”

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