News & Media

Immigrant Rights Supporters Rally Against ICE

Human Dignity & Just Immigration Reform

March 2, 2012  |  Aurora Sentinel  |  Link to article

AURORA | Bearing hand-made signs and voicing a memory bank of chants against deportation, about 50 immigrants’ rights supporters gathered at the Aurora Municipal Center March 2 to protest an ongoing surge by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations group is currently conducting a surge of its criminal alien program at the Aurora Detention Center, according to an ICE spokesman. That means that on-site officers are at the detention facility to review and screen court summonses of 100 percent of those arrested on criminal charges 24 hours per day through March 6 to identify deportable illegal aliens, according to ICE.

The weeklong crack down is aimed at targeting illegal aliens who are fugitives, who have been previously deported, or who have been convicted of dangerous crimes, said Carl Rusnok, ICE spokesman, in an email.

But members of local immigrants’ rights groups say the uptick cultivates a culture of fear. They sang chants like "Immigration is not a crime, why are people doing time?" in front of the Aurora Detention Center, and they cautioned undocumented residents to stay out of the limelight this weekend and early next week.

“This seems like it’s kind of a step up in the invasiveness of the work that ICE does,” said Vern Rempel, a clergyman from the First Mennonite Church of Denver and a member of Denver-based Metro Organizations for People. “For me, it’s a matter of trying to bring some transparency to what’s going on so it doesn’t just go on behind the scenes.”

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said he wants to dispel the myth that the Aurora Police Department has anything to do with illegal immigration. Local police departments do not have the authority to deport illegal aliens; that responsibility falls to the federal government, he said.

“Our agenda is the same as it’s always been,” he said. “The immigration status of people is irrelevant to us. We have no authority to enforce immigration law and our agenda is to build trust in the community at all times.”

Zelda DeBoyes, court administrator for the Aurora Detention Center, reiterated Oates’ statement.

“Immigration is not a local or state issue. It is strictly only a federal issue,” she said.

Immigrants’ rights supporters like Julie Gonzales, director of organizing for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said ICE is conducting surges to try and increase detention numbers and meet its quota for deportations while instilling fear in the community.

“This “surge” strategy sows terror, undermines community policing, drives victims underground,” she said in a press release. “It should be stopped immediately.”

Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or