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Coffman: Aurora police enforce local laws, not immigration laws, and our resolution doesn’t change that 

The recent Denver Post editorial reiterated a tired, old, inaccurate trope that Aurora’s police department “will check the immigration status of people and tell ICE what it wants and needs to know for potential deportation cases.” This is patently wrong and misleading.

Aurora police officers enforce state and municipal laws, not federal laws. The city has repeated this message for many years. Immigration law is a federal responsibility.

The recent resolution passed by City Council does not change that. Someone’s immigration status is immaterial to our police officers. Our officers work to build positive relationships with our immigrant communities and regularly encourage anyone – irrespective and without knowledge of their immigration status – to contact the Aurora Police Department if they are a victim or a witness to crime.

In fact, some of our police officers themselves are immigrants. We recognize that immigrants are particularly vulnerable to crime, and we work hard to build trust among them. Although we don’t enforce federal immigration laws, the resolution affirms that the city of Aurora is not a “sanctuary city,” in that we do not seek to block U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement officials from doing their job by withholding information. Our goal is public safety for all members of the community.

Contrary to the editorial board’s assertions on March 3, the resolution passed by the Aurora City Council on Feb. 26 is about us being good stewards of taxpayer dollars, not demonizing people seeking a better life. To conflate the issues is not only inaccurate but unfair, especially in a community that welcomes residents from across the globe. This is not an either-or situation. We can greatly value our immigrant communities and still not have the resources or be structured to handle the current influx of migrants.

Our duty is to focus limited city resources on delivering essential city services to residents like police, fire, 911, water, transportation infrastructure and maintenance, recreation, and libraries. The resolution simply affirms that the city does not have the financial capacity to fund services related to the migrant crisis and that it expects neighboring municipalities or entities to help foot the bills if they want to bus migrants into Aurora.

It notes that Aurora, as a city, not a city and a county like Denver, does not have public health or human services departments or the professionals and the funding that comes with them. Most importantly, it calls on the federal government to take swift, decisive action to support municipalities around the country that continue to shoulder the enormous burden of this crisis at the expense of their residents.

As our residents and other people across the metro area know, we are exceedingly proud of Aurora’s identity as the most diverse and global city in the state and region. There’s a reason we call Aurora “The World in a City.” We value our immigrant communities greatly and have strong working relationships with each of them. For many years, we have expressed unwavering support for immigration through established immigration channels. We have also maximized our existing resources as efficiently as possible to align with the city’s unique Immigrant and Refugee Integration Plan.

If we can agree on one thing, it is that our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., made this mess, and it is their responsibility to clean it up by passing a comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders and fixes our broken immigration system. Until then, the federal government must assume responsibility for all costs associated with the support of the recently arrived migrants into the Denver metro area and quit making cities like Aurora the scapegoats.

Mike Coffman is the mayor of Aurora.

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