Denver – Activists in Colorado spoke out Friday about an Immigration and Customs Enforcement "surge" in the state's third-largest city that involves the "new tactic" of reviewing court summonses in search of deportable migrants.
The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition organized a rally outside the municipal building in Aurora, a city of 325,000 people east of Denver, to protest the ICE operation, which is set to run Feb. 29-March 6.
Hispanics make up 28 percent of Aurora's population and an estimated three of every four Latinos in the city are immigrants.
The ICE office in Denver "is conducting a 'surge' of its criminal alien program (CAP) at the Aurora Jail," spokesman Carl Rusnok said in a statement issued Friday.
The main thrust of the CAP surge involves screening every person arrested on criminal charges in Aurora to "identify deportable aliens" and make sure that if any such aliens are released from local custody, they will be turned over to ICE.
ICE personnel will also review traffic summonses in search of "aliens: 1) who are fugitives, 2) have been previously deported 3) or who have been convicted of crimes that align them with ICE Civil Immigration Enforcement priorities," Rusnok said.
In a later statement, however, he said ICE is looking at court summonses, not traffic summonses.
To protest the ICE surge, around 100 supporters of CIRC, Metro Organizations for People and other Denver-area community and religious groups gathered in Aurora at midday Friday.
"Compiling immigration information on the basis of municipal infractions is a new kind of procedure ... that we have never heard of," CIRC's political director, Julie Gonzales, said at the demonstration.
"It's a way of undermining the confidence the community has in the local police," she said. "And it's a tactic that generates fear in the community, as many people, including citizens and legal residents, will be afraid even to show up in municipal court to pay a fine."
An adolescent CIRC activist who identified herself only as Sara said that some of her Hispanic friends have postponed parties and other activities until after the end of the ICE surge.
CIRC has contacted Aurora churches with Hispanic congregations and asked them to warn their members to avoid committing traffic offenses for the duration of the ICE operation.