By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)– With gridlock in Congress, state and local governments are taking the lead on immigration reform and “sanctuary cities” have become a flash-point in this year’s gubernatorial election.

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Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton has made abolishing sanctuary cities – or cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration law – one of the pillars of his campaign, pointing to Denver as one of the worst offenders.

Walker Stapleton (credit: CBS)

“This comes down to a public safety issue. It is unconscionable to me that you could have somebody as we had in Denver who committed vehicular homicide and was charged with a felony and spent less than 14 hours in a Denver jail and was released.”

Illegal immigrants detained at the U.S. border. (Credit: CBS)

His promise to rid the state of sanctuary cities, however, will be a difficult to deliver on, “There are certain things that can be done from a state funding standpoint. There are certain things that can be done from a state government standpoint in terms of changing some leadership around.”

CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd interviews Walker Stapleton (credit: CBS)

But he admits, without the legislature’s help, his influence will be limited, and democrats will almost certainly be in control of the House, “I don’t know what avenues will be specifically available except my determination to pursue every avenue available.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 14: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), agents detain an immigrant on October 14, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. ICE agents said the immigrant, a legal resident with a Green Card, was a convicted criminal and member of the Alabama Street Gang in the Canoga Park area. ICE builds deportation cases against thousands of immigrants living in the United States. Green Card holders are also vulnerable to deportation if convicted of certain crimes. The number of ICE detentions and deportations from California has dropped since the state passed the Trust Act in October 2013, which set limits on California state law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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His Democratic opponent Jared Polis has a distinctly different take. He’s from Boulder, which declared itself a sanctuary city.

Rep. Jared Polis (credit: CBS)

“As Governor of Colorado, I’ll prevent President Trump or any president from commandeering local law enforcement to enforce their Washington D.C. priorities.”

Young migrant boys, whose faces can not be shown, are seen at the US Customs and Border Protection Facility in Tucson, Arizona during a visit by US First Lady Melania Trump, June 28, 2018. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP/ Getty Images)

He insists sanctuary city policies don’t protect violent criminals, “If someone is arrested for a crime and they’re not here legally they should be deported. What we’re talking about here are non-criminal immigrants, people who may have entered the country illegally and reside here and work here but have not violated any of our other laws.”

Protestors gather for a demonstration against the US immigration policies separating migrant families in Chicago, June 30, 2018. (Photo by JIM YOUNG / AFP)

But cases like Ever Valles, who committed murder after he was released by the sheriff of Denver despite an ICE detainer, refute that. Still for every case like his, there is a mom or dad taking sanctuary in a church.

(credit: CBS)

Polis recently voted “present” – meaning he didn’t take a position – on a bill to abolish immigration and customs. He told me his vote was in protest of the separation of families at the border, something Stapleton has not taken a position on.

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Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.