Feds may investigate collaboration between school resource officers and ICE in Colorado

ice immigration and customs enforcement photo cropped.jpg
Immigration advocates are hopeful that a new agreement between the Roaring Fork School District and three local police departments will put an end to the controversial collaboration between school resource officers and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. But they also fear that the agreement doesn't go far enough -- and they've asked the federal Department of Homeland Security to investigate.

A letter provided to Westword confirms that the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, or CRCL, received a complaint about the issue. It says the complaint will be forwarded to the DHS Office of the Inspector General to review. If that office declines to investigate, it will be returned to CRCL for an "appropriate response" -- which could include an investigation to "find and address problems in DHS policy."

Westword has contacted DHS to ask whether the CRCL has decided to investigate. Brendan Greene with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition and Rebecca Wallance, an attorney with the Colorado ACLU, say the CRCL has agreed to do so.

What happened in the Roaring Fork Valley could have "national implications," says Wallace. She's been involved in the issue since October, when she sent a letter to the Roaring Fork RE-1 school board urging members to adopt a policy banning school resource officers from collaborating with ICE.

The issue first came up last year, when a local student advocacy group called the Asociacion de Jovenes Unidos en Accion, or AJUA, raised concerns about a school resource officer named Alvaro Agon. The group objected to the fact that Agon had once worked as the Carbondale Police Department's liaison to ICE.

"We have some cases documented of him questioning students about their parents' status," Greene told Westword. "We have instances of him deporting family members of parents and students at the schools. Then, those same children have to see him at school in the following days.... It makes them not feel safe at the school."

The Roaring Fork school board agreed to look into implementing a policy. Months later,it ended up with a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, that urges the Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt police departments to use "extraordinary discretion" when assigning duties to school resource officers "where a student's family immigration status may come into question as these assignments may diminish the necessary trust the SROs have worked so long to build with the student and the family."

Alex Alvarado of AJUA says he's disappointed that the MOU doesn't go farther. "We felt it could be more binding," he says. "Our goal was to have a written document that would strictly remove ICE from the schools."

But though he feels AJUA was wrongly cut out of the process of crafting the agreement, Alvarado says he's proud that the group's advocacy caused a change. "To have the police departments and the school board write something that agrees with what we've been saying -- that officers that work with ICE will lose the trust of the community -- that's awesome to see," he says. "As students, we feel happy that the police departments and the school district recognize that."

The ACLU is also pleased. "I understand AJUA's disappointment and we share it, but we're pleased with the progress," Wallace says. "We're hopeful that the MOU will be sufficient to do what we know is right, which is to not have SROs collaborating with immigration authorites. We hope the spirit of the MOU will be followed."

Agon, the officer who was the subject of AJUA's initial concerns, has left the state, Wallace says. However, records requests by the ACLU have confirmed that two school resource officers in Glenwood Springs are cross-designated to collaborate with ICE, she says. While Wallace says she doesn't know the extent of that collaboration, the records requests show that at least one officer has participated in an immigration raid. "Our view is that there should be no assignment of SROs to ICE task forces and no participation in raids that can result in deportation proceedings" of students' family or friends, she says.

Read the MOU below.

MOU Between Roaring Fork School Board and Police Deparments re: SROs and ICE

More from our Immigration archive: "ICE surge in Aurora nets twelve immigrants subject to deportation."


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3 comments
Just_Anita
Just_Anita

"Extreme Discretion" Doesn't Remove ICE from RE-1 public schools. Trust has been breached in this community, and political ideology has reared its ugly head in our district!

The new school board has shown it has no concern for nearly 52% of its current student body with regards to permanently removing ICE from our SRO program. The message being sent in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) written by the school board is clear:  “All Latino students are gang members from undocumented families, and all need to be deported.”

The school board has been unable to find one other district in Colorado, or the US, to justify continuing failed policy that keeps ICE in our district schools. The collaborated statement created by the board, the police chiefs, and Judy Haptonstall, without student input, does nothing to remove ICE from the SRO program and our schools. The words “extreme discretion” for SROs is used to describe policy which actively targets and profiles students. Add ICE to the program, and it’s clear which students are being targeted.

The questions every parent and taxpayer should be asking are: “Who created this ridiculous policy?”; “Why would the board continue supporting ICE in schools?”; “What will it cost the district, if this policy compromises school funding?”; “How would the school district operate if 52% of the per pupil funding were removed?” Is this a board that supports public schools, or simply following a segment of our population that wants to dismantle public education?

The statement presented is nothing more than the board telling our children they must find a way to deal with the chilling effects of seeing active ICE agents as SROs with board assurance, on the board's words not actions,  the increased rogue ICE raids and random student profiling checks  have nothing to do with targeting the Hispanic community.

Let’s see how  the board’s statement holds up under parental and federal scrutiny, when our district is forced to make a decision between retaining failed policy and receiving district funding. The board’s lack of concern has awakened a sleeping giant.

Just_Anita
Just_Anita

Then let's start with tracing lineage from 1776, and send all lines of immigrants back to their original countries. Have every person living in the US today take a blood sample to find out where they come from - just like they do with dogs to get a bead on their breed. Where would you call "home", American Girl? What kind of mutt are you?

I know, let's go a step farther, and give back the land we stole from native nations and Mexico. Again, where would you call "home", American Girl?

If you're a little white girl, you're an immigrant. And get this, if you're not, you're still an immigrant, because genetically we all come from Africa! I bet it's a comfort knowing you share the same genetic stuff with our President, and even Latinos! Did I brighten your day? Isn't science a wonderful thing! Science creates a tangible format - unlike religion and nationalism - that puts us all on an equal playing field on God's big blue planet, despite the bigots who want to create one super race over another.

Our country was founded on immigrants. We're a nation of immigrants. In other words, a bunch of mutts. No matter how hard the religious white supremacy movement tries - no one can turn a mutt into a pedigree. Any bark to do so, is fantasy, and nothing more than racist bigoted BS. You're not a racist, are you American Girl?

I say, if you don't like America's melting pot of diversity - go find yourself a country that likes pure breed pedigrees and in-breeding. I think Germany tried it once under Hitler. Didn't go very far at the time, and won't this time either. In the meantime, I'll support my country's founding principles that we are a nation of immigrants - warts and all - and keep our doors open for everyone, who wants to call America home. As Lady Liberty says, "Give me your tired, your poor......." America is amnesty for all humans.

This American Mutt Girl is proudly waving her red, white, and blue under diversity and home to all seeking freedom, equality, and Democracy! Let freedom ring!

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