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Immigration: Report says CO's "show me your papers" law costs $13 million per year

Categories: Immigration

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Colorado spends about $13 million a year to enforce a 2006 state law that requires local cops to report to federal immigration authorities arrestees who they suspect are undocumented immigrants, according to a report by the Colorado Fiscal Institute. Those reported to the feds spend an average of 22 days longer in jail than other arrestees -- and the cost adds up quickly.

But the high price tag is just one argument against what advocates call "show me your papers" laws. They're also concerned with the human cost.

Take the story of nineteen-year-old Luis Antonio Medrano. He was pulled over for speeding and because he doesn't have a driver's license, local law enforcement officers contacted federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Medrano told them that although he was undocumented, he was in the process of applying for deferred action, which provides young people brought here as children relief from deportation. His story checked out, but not before he was held in jail for nineteen hours.

"It changed how I view law enforcement and government," Medrano says. "The situation made me feel like I was a criminal for being who I am."

"The net effect is that immigrants see the local police as immigrant enforcement," says Theresa Trujillo of the Colorado Progressive Coalition. "It creates a chilling effect."

The report focuses on a single law, SB90. It was passed in 2006, at a time when paranoia about illegal immigration was high. Then-Governor Bill Owens held a special legislative session just to address the issue, and when it was over, he declared that Colorado lawmakers had passed the "toughest immigration laws in the nation."

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The report says that while legislative budget crunchers agreed there would be a cost to SB90, they never quantified how much. The report, its authors say, is the first attempt to do that.

SB90 is supposed to work like this: A police officer arrests someone for a criminal charge. If the cop or the sheriff's deputies booking the arrestee into jail have probable cause to believe that person is undocumented, they report him to ICE, which can choose to issue a "detainer," or a hold request, on the arrestee. Once the arrestee has posted bond, he's held for an additional 48 hours to give ICE time to pick him up. If he doesn't bond out, ICE must wait until he's gone to court and served his sentence before taking custody of him.

But it doesn't always work that way. Often, undocumented immigrants "are told they don't have a right to pay a bond because they have an immigration hold," says Brendan Greene of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. "Because people are being misinformed, a lot of times people are staying in jail and awaiting their court date, and that's one of the biggest contributors to the higher costs."

From 2006 to 2011, the report shows that Colorado law enforcement agencies reported a total of 145,183 arrestees to ICE. It's more difficult to calculate how many of those people wound up with detainers, authors say, because data isn't widely available. But an analysis of 2010 and 2011 statistics from Denver and Broomfield counties found that ICE requested holds on 41 percent of those reported to the federal agency.

The report takes a closer look at Denver. In 2010 and 2011, the report shows, the majority of people with ICE holds were in jail for misdemeanor or low-level offenses -- which advocates say is against federal directives to target the most serious offenders.

In addition, 70 percent of those with holds were eventually released to ICE. But first, they spent longer in jail (67 days on average) than other arrestees (45 days). At $54 per day, the report estimates that SB90 cost Denver taxpayers $1.8 million in 2010 and 2011.

If Denver's pattern holds true for the rest of the state (and it may not; for instance, a 2008 report found that ICE requested detainers on just 24 percent of arrestees reported to the federal agency in 2007 by the Aurora Police Department), the report estimates that Colorado is spending $13 million per year detaining undocumented immigrants.

In addition to the report, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition started a hotline in September to collect stories about the effects of laws such as SB90. Greene says 75 percent of callers report that they were stopped by the police for traffic infractions and eventually booked into jail when the police found they had no documentation.

"We're seeing there is a pattern of people being arrested for low-level offenses," Greene says, "and patterns of people having issues with their bonds; patterns of people being held for an extra long time in order to determine their status.

"Nothing like this existed before," he adds of the hotline. "I think it was a tremendous need. It's been really amazing to see the bravery of the callers. Most callers express that they're just happy this exists, to be able to share their story."

Advocates say they're looking for legislative solutions, though they didn't offer any specifics on a conference call to discuss the report earlier this week. "We're looking forward to the next legislative session and to sharing this report with legislators," Trujillo says.

Continue to read the report, "Misplaced Priorities: SB90 and the Costs to Local Communities."


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8 comments
davej.francis
davej.francis

Let the Liberal progressives do what they want inthe next four years, such as tax and spend and whatever issue they have inmind? Then sit back and watch the raging Socialist agenda implode as thegeneral population sees their country being taken over by bloated government,reducing energy supplies of oil, national gas and the closing of the coalindustry. Then after this Liberal Socialist financial tidal wave, let the wrathof the average American tear through the ranks of these fools that run thiscountry.  Watch as the hard coreDemocrats cut funding to border enforcement, and instituting a new illegalalien amnesty and you paying for everything; educating their large familyprogeny, their medical care and treatment, their low cost government homes.  After the stock markets shake with fear, moresmall businesses going broke and large corporations send out feelers for lesstaxed countries to set up shop. Even more involvement of government ininfluencing our freedoms, The joke will be on the American people, with evenmore unemployment, closing businesses and the distributing of even moreentitlement; even more welfare for illegal migrants, even more grand “Rules andRegulations” to stifle the creation of small businesses and a sky rocketingdeficit at state and federal level and this country on the edge of a evenlarger red ink abyss.The Americanworker whether Democrat or Republican should do the right thing for the hugejobless population and demand that the temporary tenant in the Oval office, andall the sub tenants in Washington that thrive on the misery of citizens andhonest green card holders pass “THE LEGAL WORKFORCE BILL”. E-Verify is notperfect, but it’s all we have to eject the millions of illegal labor from jobmarket? Throw out Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada as he is like death dealer of anybills in Congress and refuses to allow any reasonable compromise. Stop themassive national theft of Social Security numbers, and install an official IDwith a fingerprint or retina scan for all citizens. Approve an amendment to the14th Amendment, “THE BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP BILL” to sever thegrowing problem of millions of pregnant women arriving here with unborn babies,to intentionally steal the public assistance programs from our own children,our elderly and homeless. Illegal aliens are stealing our future, the risingneed for more taxes and our way of life. Both political parties are entirely toblame, driven by greed, big labor, big religion and the never ending hunt formore votes. States that had no election restrictions on absentee ballots,voting stations was very likely compromised by non citizens voting and now ourfuture is open to expectations.

mj_s
mj_s

Let them Bond out, we can just recover those monies when they don't show up for their court date....

Gilbilly
Gilbilly

Maybe they'll pay for this mess with A64 money

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@davej.francis Dave, thanks for sharing your thoughts. We're going to make your post an upcoming Comment of the Day. We appreciate you weighing in.

yourdad
yourdad

@davej.francis Dave why not make a sign about how you feel and go stand off Federal? Or Auraria Campus, you know where those liberals are trained? Why not get from behind your keyboard to express your obviously well thought out and tough guy thoughts?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@davej.francis  ... stay scared, bigot ... and cling tightly to your Holey Baable and your guns.

yourdad
yourdad

@Gilbilly No that money goes to schools. Remember the place the you dropped out at the 5th grade

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