Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Friday condemned the prospect of immigration raids in the city and across the country Sunday and said city government will do nothing to cooperate with them.
“These deportation raids need to stop, and these detention centers need to close,” Hancock said during a news conference in his Denver City and County Building office.
“What’s happening in this country today is shameful and not in line with the principles of this country that we love and that we call home,” Hancock said.
In Colorado Springs, about 150 people marched downtown along Tejon Street on Friday night holding signs and chanting anti-ICE slogans to protest the planned raids and the detention centers where children are being held along the U.S. border with Mexico.
“(The detention centers) look like concentration camps because their purpose is to dehumanize these people that are coming and seeking asylum,” said protester Roxana Avila, co-president of the club Mi Gente My People at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. “They are made to seclude these people, for us to forget about them, for them to seem like animals, when in reality they’re just humans. They’re people like us.”
During the news conference in Denver, Hancock repeated a claim he made to CNN on Thursday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were contacting child service agencies asking for assistance if children were taken into custody.
“They haven’t done this in Denver, but we’ve heard that ICE has been reaching out to child welfare services across the country,” Hancock said. “It’s further proof that these raids aren’t about criminal elements. They’re about targeting vulnerable, helpless families.”
Hancock offered no specific evidence of that claim. When asked for the basis of his claim, his spokeswoman Theresa Marchetta said, “That’s not something we can share.”
Hancock was critical of ICE for the way in which it is carrying out orders from President Donald Trump.
“We believe wholeheartedly that if this is how ICE is going to operate under this administration, then ICE’s mandate needs to change and these facilities need to be out of it,” Hancock said.
He also urged Denver residents to donate to a private nonprofit fund that provides legal assistance to people facing the risk of deportation.
“Our immigrants have rights, and they need to know what those rights are, so that they aren’t exploited by a system being used against them,” Hancock said.
The city has contributed $300,000 to the Denver Immigrant Legal Services Fund over the last two years, said Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson.
Bronson said studies have shown that immigrants who are represented by a lawyer during deportation hearings are seven to 10 times more likely to have a successful outcome.
During the news conference, Hancock was flanked by city officials who wore badges that read “Denver (heart symbol) immigrants.”
Hancock noted the City Council adopted an ordinance in 2017 that forbids city officials from assisting in immigration raids.
Manager of Safety Troy Riggs said ICE officials traditionally give the city’s 911 center a short heads up before any raids are carried out.
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said the department does not send patrol cars to places where raids are taking place.
“Like the ordinance states, we do not get involved in any federal immigration operations,” Pazen said.
Pazen said officers do not routinely ask people they contact about their immigration status.
“We absolutely want to hold criminals accountable for their crimes and that’s our focus,” Pazen said. “And we can do that without finding out, asking, inquiring about a person’s immigration status.”
The Gazette’s Liz Henderson contributed to this article.