An investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU) revealed that the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department (GCSD) has referred several victims of domestic violence to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, resulting in those individuals being placed in deportation proceedings because they chose to report acts of domestic violence to law enforcement.
In a letter dated May 2, 2012, the ACLU and the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) explained to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario that this practice is out of step with Colorado law and creates a strong and perverse disincentive for undocumented victims and witnesses of domestic violence to report the abuse to law enforcement.
It is with this concern in mind that the Colorado legislature, even while passing a law requiring sheriffs to report certain arrestees to ICE, carved out an explicit exception to the reporting requirement for domestic violence arrestees. The law is called Senate Bill 90 (SB-90), and the domestic violence exception to SB-90 provides for sheriffs to refrain from reporting a domestic violence arrestee to ICE unless and until that individual is convicted. GCSD does not comply with this exception and, as a result, victims of domestic violence who have been mistakenly arrested have been placed in deportation proceedings.
Such referrals have a tremendous chilling effect on the large undocumented community in the Roaring Fork Valley and the state. The message being sent to this community is that if you are being abused, do not call the police.
While GCSD has, at this point, refused to change its policy, the ACLU has worked with several other counties to change their policies to protect victims of domestic violence and encourage them to reach out to law enforcement.
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