AURORA | Aurora police Chief Nick Metz reiterated Tuesday that Aurora police will not investigate or detain people based on their immigration status.
In a statement on the department’s Facebook page, Metz said the department has received several questions since the election last week about whether they are tweaking their immigration policies.
“The simple answer is: No,” the statement said.
Metz joins other police chiefs around the country — including in Los Angeles — in stating flatly, even after an election that saw President-elect Donald Trump make harsh immigration enforcement a centerpiece of his campaign, local police are not going to tackle immigration issues and will instead focus on local crime.
“Our policy is not based on politics or personal philosophy. It is based on public safety. It is our goal to ensure that all individuals within Aurora feel safe in reporting emergencies and working closely with the APD to ensure our city remains a safe place for all,” Metz said. “The city’s responsibility is to provide services to all residents, enforce local laws and build strong community partnerships.”
Aurora has long struggled with how to handle the issue of illegal immigration.
The city has been pushed by outside forces to use civilian police to actively seek out undocumented immigrants, or at least assist federal officials in identifying and detaining suspected undocumented immigrants for deportation.
Just a few years ago, Aurora operated under the federal Secure Communities program, which required local law enforcement officials to detain people whom ICE thought were in the country illegally.
Today, the city operates under a different standard that prohibits Aurora police from taking a proactive role in the enforcement of immigration.
Police and state lawmakers have argued that using police to search out immigration violators makes all of Aurora less safe because immigrants won’t call police when they witness or are party to a crime for fear of deportation. Also, undocumented immigrants would become frequent targets of crime because criminals be confident their victims would not call police.
The policy has prompted critics to label Aurora a “sanctuary city,” which city officials have rebuked.
According to city documents, the Secure Communities program was repealed in November 2014 and replaced by the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). As a part of PEP, all individuals placed in custody in the city’s holding facility are fingerprinted, whether they are documented or not.
From there, the information is sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which then shares the information with ICE. The enforcement agency then has a window of four hours when they are allowed to pick up a detainee. If they miss that window of time, the detainee is released just like anyone else.
The issue was a central talking point at city council committee hearings last year, where council members discussed Aurora being included along with several cities in the state labeled as “sanctuary cities” for providing a degree of shelter to undocumented immigrants.
The term “sanctuary city” has become a rallying cry for proponents of stiffer immigration laws. They characterize such places as havens where those in the country illegally are protected from immigration authorities.
But the label is far from any kind of official designation. The reality behind the phrase is that while some cities actively thumb their noses at federal immigration policies, many refuse to enforce them not because of any moral obligation to immigrants; they fear lawsuits.