Nearly one-third of Colorado's cities and counties missed a March 1 deadline for properly reporting how often their law officers contacted federal immigration authorities about suspected illegal immigrants.
The statute, adopted in 2006, requires the reports to be filed annually with the Colorado legislature and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. But 57 of the 270 cities and 15 of the 64 counties haven't yet filed the reports or the accompanying certifications that were due at the beginning of the month — or made mistakes on the required documents. Among those that haven't filed reports are Eagle, Yuma and Mesa counties. The city of Aurora has not completed the certification portion of the requirement.
The city and county of Denver and Douglas County submitted their required certifications Friday — after The Denver Post asked officials in the two jurisdictions about their missing documentation.
"The call from The Post to see what is going on triggered this," said Sgt. Ron Hanavan of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
Four of those who have yet to file a properly completed report or an accompanying certification document had grant funds withheld in punishment.
Every year since the reporting statute was adopted in 2006 and since its requirements were tightened in 2008, a significant percentage of counties and municipalities has been tardy with the reports.
The delays appear to have more to do with red-tape mistakes than an effort to thwart a law that may have outlived its usefulness. The reasons for noncompliance have varied, said Linda Rice, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
Some are due to mistakes in filling out and filing the forms with the legislature and then certifying with Local Affairs that they have been filed. Some are the result of small towns contracting with larger jurisdictions for law enforcement. Their reports are at times overlooked by the larger agencies. Others are like overdue term papers: The agencies simply don't complete them in time.
The reporting requirements instituted by Senate Bill 06-090 mandate that law officers must report arrestees to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if there is probable cause to believe they are undocumented. If they don't do the report, they stand to lose their piece of the millions in grant funds that Local Affairs awards each year. For last year, that total was nearly $63 million.
As of last week, the department was holding up payments ranging from $142,000 to El Paso County to $5,300 to Baca County because of tardy filings.
The state released the hold on grant funds Friday for Denver, which had $39,000 coming its way, and Douglas County, which was in danger of losing $8,600.
Other entities with delinquent filings haven't been cut out of grants because they currently aren't due any payments.
Douglas County was snagged by a change in the law this year that mandates an official other than a police chief or a sheriff sign off on the reports.
Daelene Mix with the Department of Safety for the city and county of Denver said the Denver city attorney filed the report on March 1 with the legislature. But the certification to Local Affairs had been overlooked until Friday.
The law that appears to be causing more than a little confusion for some Colorado entities was originally passed to prevent any counties, cities or towns from becoming sanctuaries for illegal immigrants and to ensure that they comply with federal immigration laws.
The law was enacted beforethe federal Secure Communities program went into effect last year.That program is operating in three Colorado counties but is mandated to be used by all law enforcement agencies nationwide in 2013. Secure Communities requires that all persons booked into jails be checked against federal databases to determine their legal status in the country. Secure Communities uses a biometric fingerprinting system that links local law enforcement agencies with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
No one is yet saying that the law should be repealed because there are now two levels of mandated reporting of suspected illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
"Our responsibility is to adhere to what the federal requests are. That is where we will leave it," Hanavan said in response to the question about whether both are necessary.
Mike Saccone, a spokesman for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, said Suthers believes the law is still necessary even with Secure Communities and with a decrease in illegal immigration.
"Whether to repeal it would be up to the legislature," Suthers said via Saccone.
In 2008, the legislature called for an audit of compliance with SB 06-090. That came in the wake of a deadly crash involving an illegal immigrant with an extensive criminal history.
The immigrant, Francis Hernandez, had never been referred to ICE by local law enforcement before he was involved in a collision in which his vehicle crashed into an Aurora ice cream shop, killing three people.
The audit found that law enforcement agencies are generally in compliance with SB 06-090 but that some tightening of requirements was necessary.
As a result, local entities now have to certify to Local Affairs that they are in compliance with the law as well as supplying the report to the legislature. A spreadsheet was created to show the level of compliance with every town, city and county in the state.
That audit concluded that the overall effectiveness of SB 06-090 could not be assessed because ICE did not respond to requests for data.
There is still no data available on how many reports of suspected illegal immigrants result in ICE detention. ICE does supply information to the state on total detentions and deportations under the Secure Communities program.
Nancy Lofholm: 970-256-1957 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Counties report to ice
Front Range counties reported the following number of cases in which law officers contacted federal immigration authorities about instances in which they encountered suspected illegal immigrants:
• Arapahoe — 2,949
• Denver — 2,857
• Adams — 1,844
• Weld — 1,835
• Boulder — 1,241
• Jefferson — 1,139
• Larimer — 545
• Douglas — 520
• Broomfield — 162