Community gathers at City Council to support undocumented immigrants

Ty Betts

Community members gathered at Fort Collins City Council Tuesday evening to support immigrants who live in fear of their federal and local government.

A resolution was approved that rescinds a 2006 resolution which required law enforcement to report arrestees to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they were not legal citizens of the U.S. The resolution also establishes ways to increase communication with immigrant communities.

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One of the goals of the legislation is to increase public safety. Immigrants who are undocumented might refrain from calling police or acting as witnesses if they think they will face prosecution, according to Jacqueline Kozak-Thiel, who helped develop the proposal.

“People are afraid,” Kozak-Thiel said. “They are afraid to leave home, they are afraid to report crimes, they are afraid of hostility and discrimination, and they are afraid to interact with government officials.”

Kozak-Thiel said the resolution will establish outreach and education to various communities. In response, various community members vocalized their beliefs that education and outreach should not target immigrants.

“It’s not about educating the community, it’s about educating those making policies,” said community member Sarah Cane.

Cheryl Distaso, of the Community Trust Coalition, is in favor of making it illegal to ask immigrants their status and documentation, but shared a similar sentiment as Cane regarding the resolution that was proposed.

“The goal is not to educate the community but to educate city council,” Distaso said. “The issue is that they (undocumented immigrants) do not feel safe which is real and rationally based.”

Councilmember Ken Summers was not convinced that undocumented immigrant’s fears are completely warranted. He asked Sheriff Justin Smith and Deputy Chief Greg Yeager the current protocol in processing undocumented immigrants. Yeager said officers do not ask to see paperwork on site. If an arrest is made, Smith said they then have an obligation to find out who a person is and their immigration status.   

“We need to address these issues and the fact that if people are afraid, then give them the information that resolves their fear,” Summers said.

A motion was made to suspend this resolution but after amendments were made to the initial proposal, it passed unanimously.

Mayor Wade Troxell said addressing issues like immigration are made complicated by several federal and state laws that the city has to work around. Troxell ultimately showed approval for this action.

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“As this resolution has been drafted and crafted tonight, I think it does represent something that is appropriate for Fort Collins.” Troxell said.

Collegian news reporter Ty Betts can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @TyBetts9