The Durango city councilors clarified the city’s record on enforcing immigration law Tuesday.
The councilors unanimously passed a resolution stating: The city is not, and has never been, a sanctuary city.
National interest in the issue has increased in cities that don’t cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement after an immigrant in the country illegally, allegedly shot Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco in July. San Francisco is a self-proclaimed sanctuary city.
Durango’s policy and its cooperation with federal authorities was recently questioned publicly, and the town was listed by the website sanctuarycities.info as a municipality that shelters immigrants in the country illegally.
However, since 2008, the Durango Police Department has notified Immigration and Customs Enforcement about 15 people who were arrested and later found to be in the country illegally, Police Chief Jim Spratlen said in an interview.
The new resolution cites a 2004 resolution that states the city will not use municipal resources to identify, apprehend or deport immigrants who are in the country illegally.
However, the Durango Police Department never used city resources to enforce national immigration laws, Spratlen said.
“We’re not going to single people out and profile them,” he said.
When local police work to enforce immigration laws, it can lead to discrimination and deteriorate trust between law enforcement and immigrants in the country illegally, said Danny Quinlan, executive director of Compañeros: Four Corners Immigrant Resource Center.
“Having a solid foundation of trust makes policing easier, makes policing better,” he said.
The police generally call Immigration and Customs Enforcement if someone is arrested for a felony arrest or a violent misdemeanor, said Lt. Ray Shupe, a spokesman for the Durango Police Department.
However, law enforcement will not notify ICE if someone is arrested on domestic-violence charges, said Sgt. Dan Bender, a spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.
Local police and sheriff’s deputies do not want to deter spouses from coming forward for fear their significant other could be deported, he said.
On the national scene, the shooting in San Francisco has encouraged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bill seeking to punish municipalities that do not cooperate with federal authorities.
When there are spikes in interest in immigration policy at the national level, it tends to be very difficult for immigrants in the country illegally, Quinlan said.
He would like to see comprehensive immigration reform that would address the issue more holistically and save state and local resources.