Gov. Jared Polis issued a directive this week to his departments and state agencies barring them from sharing information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for civil enforcement.
Before the coronavirus public health crisis took hold in the state, Sen. Julie Gonzales was working with the Meyer Law Office on a bill that would prevent ICE from using state databases such as from the Department of Motor Vehicles to track immigrants. It took a backseat as lawmakers focused on coronavirus response and budget cuts.
But the concern about ICE’s use of state information to deport immigrants is more heightened at a time when people are trying to access assistance during a pandemic and economic shutdowns, so the advocates have been working with Polis to find another way to extend protections.
“There’s a lot of anxiety people are facing,” Gonzales, a Denver Democrat, said earlier this month.
The guidance calls for state agencies not to request information about a person’s immigration status or release it — except as required by state or federal law, for a legitimate law enforcement purpose or as authorized by the governor. That includes not providing it solely for civil federal immigration enforcement. It also lays out requirements for keeping a written request log and providing quarterly reports. Agencies have 30 days from Wednesday to adopt the policies.
“Our communities are better and safer when all residents are full participants in society, including by engaging with their state government and accessing everything the government has to offer,” Polis said in the document obtained by The Denver Post. “All should feel welcome to be the recipients of state services without fear of abuse of their privacy or data.”
Arash Jahanian, director of policy and civil rights litigation for the Meyer Law Office, said the goal of the bill was to stop ICE from “data mining” state databases, but that’s not covered in the governor’s directive.
“Is the guidance a step in the right direction? Yes, absolutely,” Meyer Law Office principal Hans Meyer said. “But does it stop ICE from mining DMV databases? No. Is personal information of immigrant communities safe from ICE access? No. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done.”
A spokeswoman for ICE in Denver said the agency is still reviewing the directive. ICE officials have denounced policies that prevent cooperation from local or state agencies, saying they target enforcement for people who pose the biggest threats to public safety and border security.
Governor’s office spokesman Conor Cahill said the guidance is not an executive order — which advocates had initially expected — but guidance on how agencies should treat requests for data for “protecting the data of all Coloradans.”
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