Area Law Enforcement Agents Lose Big Battle to Curb Illegal Immigration

New Pro-Sheriffs Bill Gets Postponed Indefinitely

Trevor Phipps

Over the last several years, the Democrat-controlled Colorado state legislature has passed a slew of laws to hinder law enforcement agencies when making arrests related to federal immigration laws.

However, a recent influx of immigrants to the state has caused a number of local law enforcement agencies to join the battle against certain pro-immigration polices set by state lawmakers.  But once again, law agencies, including the Teller County Sheriff’s Department, are facing their biggest and sternest fights inside the state capitol.

During this year’s legislative session, House Bill 24-1128, called “Enforcement of Federal Immigration Law,” took center stage and sparked a lively debate in the legislative arena. It was sponsored by Republican State Representative Richard Holtorf, who represents the northeastern part of the state. The other key sponsor was State Senator Mark Baisley, who serves the Pikes Peak Region, and is a familiar face at local forums. The goal of the bill was to reverse previous legislation that gets in the way of law enforcement when making arrests related to federal immigration policies.

But even though the bill saw much support from sheriffs and law enforcement officials across the state, the measure proved to be short-lived.  The House State, Civic, Military, & Veteran Affairs Committee recently voted 8-3 to postpone the bill indefinitely.

The move comes after the city of Denver and other communities in Colorado have dealt with thousands of migrants entering the state from across the border. The decision continues to pursue the trend, adopted by state lawmakers, to limit the authority of federal immigration enforcement agencies, such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. In the past, Teller County has had close ties with ICE, ties that received much scrutiny by state lawmakers.

The bill planned to reenact a previous law (Senate Bill 06-090) that was repealed in 2013. SB 06-090 prohibited local governments from passing ordinances, or having policies that kept law enforcement agents from working with ICE when it came to federal immigration violations. It was designed to make it easier for enforcing immigration laws and was touted as a pro-ICE tool.

For example, the previous law that the bill would have reinstated required peace officers to report illegal immigrants to federal immigration authorities. The law officers also would have had to record the number of illegal immigrants arrested to the general assembly.

Law enforcement officials have argued that current laws prohibit actions by law officers that could help with issues related to illegal immigration. The proposed bill, advocating better enforcement of federal immigration policies, maintains that the current laws prevent a person from being arrested for immigration law violations while they are at a courthouse or attending court, and the law provides remedies for a violation.


Probation officers are also not allowed to give personal information about someone to federal immigration authorities. The bill would have repealed laws that caused these situations to occur, making it easier for law enforcement to make immigration-related arrests.

Another issue that was brought up in the pro-sheriffs’ bill text had to do with the HB 23-110, which was passed last year. This was a move made by state legislators as a part of the recent battle between state lawmakers and the Teller County Sheriff’s Office regarding their 287g agreement with ICE. The proposed bill would have repealed current statues that prevent “state and local governmental entities from contracting with a private entity for immigration detention services or entering into agreements for immigration detention services.”


When the bill was first brought to the committee, a number of state representatives and law enforcement officials spoke out against the current restrictions against law enforcement, including sheriffs from Prowers, Douglas, Bent, Fremont, Moffat, Garfield, Weld, Mesa, Archuleta, El Paso and Teller counties. El Paso and Teller County commissioners also testified in support of the bill.


“As the Sheriffs, it is our duty to uphold the laws of our constitution and protect the citizens in our perspective counties,” said El Paso County Sheriff Joseph Roybal. “Both HB 19-1124, and HB 23-1100 hinder our agencies from working and collaborating with ICE.  The termination of the 287(g) agreement my Office held with ICE in 2015, has left an undeniable gap in our ability to keep undocumented violent criminals off our streets. Together, we will pass this legislation, to ensure a safer community.”


A press release issued by both Sheriff Roybal and Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell stated that the issue has become more important since thousands of immigrants have been shipped to Denver from states along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Last month, a passenger bus, occupied by 21 undocumented families, was reportedly unloaded in downtown Colorado Springs, after a shelter in Denver, Colorado, was unable to support the infrastructure and costs related to housing undocumented migrants,” the release stated.


The release also reiterated the fact that Denver has designated itself as a sanctuary city, but both Teller and El Paso Counties have not. “It’s time for all elected and appointed officials to work together to make our state a safe place for our children to grow and live,” said Sheriff Jason Mikesell.

“Both House Bill 19-1124 and House Bill 23-1100 have shown to create an environment where lawlessness abounds. We must work with our federal partners to push against the darkness that consumes our state by allowing cartels to grow stronger.”

The day after their proposal was repealed, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office posted a list of the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the eight Democrat state representatives that voted against measure to have better enforcement of federal immigration laws.  “I am incredibly disappointed in the lack of support from our legislature for HB 24-1128,” Roybal said in the press release. “This legislation would have added another tool into the belt of law enforcement and helped us keep dangerous, violent criminals off our streets.

This issue, though, is gaining much attention locally, with more residents supporting the concerns raised by area law officers.

In Teller County, a series of town hall meetings have been organized to address the advent of more crime. One of the concerning issues deals with immigration matters (see related story).