AURORA — A week-long federal sweep of Aurora's jail identified 12 inmates who are subject to deportation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Thursday.
On Tuesday, the agency completed what it called a "surge" of its criminal alien program, during which officers from the Enforcement and Removal Operation's Denver bureau — an extension of ICE — screened all 346 inmates booked into the jail. The program's goal was to identify undocumented immigrants.
Some community members protested the fact that ERO officers were also conducting thorough reviews of court summonses.
ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said none of the 12 immigrants facing deportation came as a result of court summonses.
The week-long surge took place between Feb. 28 and March 6.
Aurora police officials were concerned that local immigrants might think that officers were working directly with ICE officials.
"We are a transparent organization that strives to reach all residents of our city, regardless of their immigration status," said Sgt. Cassidee Carlson, a spokeswoman for the Aurora Police Department. "Our message is always the same when dealing with our immigrant community — we do not enforce an immigration law, that is a federal issue.
"We want to establish trust within our community to ensure that victims and witnesses feel safe to come forward to the police."
The jail is overseen by the city's court administrator Zelda DeBoyes. DeBoyes said she was informed of the ICE surge three weeks before it was to begin.
Moreover, DeBoyes said the ICE surge is a normal routine.
"When someone is processed into the detention center, we ask their birth place, and based on their response we send an immigrant alien query down to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, then if they're going to bond out of the jail we contact ICE to see if they have a detainer on the individual," DeBoyes said. "The only thing about this surge was that ICE agents were in the actual jail doing interviews with all immigrants processed into the jail."
DeBoyes added that officials with ICE have not informed her of any future surges.
Julie Gonzales, organizing director for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said trust between the immigrant community and local law enforcement has already been frayed.
"When ICE comes into the community and starts looking at all court summonses issued by law enforcement, they're overreaching," said Gonzales, noting that only after the surge ended March 6 did ICE offer to sit down and listen to the coalition's concerns.
"Members of the immigrant community could now be reluctant to come forward if they're victims or witnesses to a crime, in part because of possible ramifications."