DENVER (CBS4)– A new city ordinance aims to prevent deportation for immigrants who commit low-level crimes in Denver.
Mayor Michael Hancock signed City Council Bill 0513 into law on Thursday.
The ordinance brings changes not only for immigrants but also for citizens. In large part, it changes how much time law-breakers will spend behind bars.
Prior to the new city law, an offender of a low-level crime like blocking the sidewalk could receive the same sentence as the perpetrator of a violent crime like sexual assault.
The new ordinance makes the time fit the crime, said Kristin Bronson, Denver City Attorney.
It restructures sentencing by differentiating between the severities of crimes in three different categories. Before, all city violations were lumped into one category, all punishable by up to 365 days in jail.
Crimes punishable by up to 365 days in jail automatically trigger notification to federal agencies including Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Bronson explained. Thus, legal immigrants who commit minor crimes now punishable by up to 60 days will no longer be flagged by ICE and risk deportation, under the new ordinance.
Additionally, the two-fold law allows the city to prosecute hate crimes. Bronson said that Denver’s immigrant community had seen a recent increase in crimes motivated by hate.
“Harassment in the workplace, harassment over social media,” Bronson said. “We are really hoping to send a message to those that seek to target our vulnerable communities and our immigrant communities for harassment that it won’t be tolerated here.”
Diana Higuera, chair of Denver Immigrant and Refugee Commission was an advocate of the ordinance.
“Finally, we have the city of Denver telling us immigrants and refugees that we are welcome in the city, and that we shouldn’t be afraid,” Higuera told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.
The ordinance comes in the wake of what Hancock calls “reckless” executive orders recently issued by the white house, including President Trump’s travel ban in addition to his heightened focus on immigration enforcement.
The law works hand-in-hand with the city’s new “plea by mail” program that allows people, including those who fear deportation, to resolve traffic tickets without appearing in court.