Denver Daily News uncritically reported Tancredo's criticism that Denver is a "sanctuary city"

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The Denver Daily News uncritically reported that "Denver has been perceived as a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants." As Colorado Media Matters has documented, city officials, state statute, and federal immigration authorities say otherwise.

An April 24 Denver Daily News article uncritically reported that U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) "has criticized Denver in the past for its 'sanctuary' policy" and that "Denver has been perceived as a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants." The article did not mention that, according to Colorado statute, former Denver City Attorney Cole Finegan, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), Denver is not a sanctuary city, as Colorado Media Matters repeatedly has noted.

According to the article by Peter Marcus, "Colorado's only presidential hopeful, Tom Tancredo, is angry about a California city's 'sanctuary' policy concerning illegal immigration. The target is San Francisco after Mayor Gavin Newsom vowed to prevent the city's police officers and other city employees from helping federal immigration authorities seeking to round up and deport undocumented workers." The article further noted:

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb signed Executive Order 116 in 1998, which he recently told 630 KHOW-AM host Peter Boyles served the purpose of sending the message: "We're not going to be harassing Mexicans just because they're Mexican."

The word "sanctuary" is not in the executive order, but Denver has been perceived as a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants since the order was signed. The Denver Police Department operations manual instructs officers not to arrest illegal immigrants as a primary offense.

"When a suspect believed to be an undocumented immigrant is arrested for other charges, a 'Refer to Immigration' charge will be added to the original charges," the manual states.

Congressman Tancredo, R-Littleton, has criticized Denver in the past for its "sanctuary" policy and now he is focusing his attention on San Francisco.

It is true that Webb told Boyles that the "purpose" of Executive Order 116 was to send the message that "we're not going to be harassing Mexicans just because they're Mexican." But the Daily News article failed to note that during the same broadcast, Boyles, who repeatedly has spread falsehoods and misinformation about illegal immigration, admitted to Webb that "sanctuary" for illegal immigrants was not part of the executive order. Furthermore, in reporting that "Denver has been perceived as a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants since the order was signed," the Daily News ignored a preponderance of evidence to the contrary. For example:

  • As Colorado Media Matters has noted, on May 1, 2006, the Colorado legislature enacted a statute prohibiting sanctuary policies, which the statute defines as "local government ordinances or policies that prohibit local officials, including peace officers, from communicating or cooperating with federal officials with regard to the immigration status of any person within the state."
  • A 2004 list of U.S. "[c]ities and counties currently that have sanctuary policies" compiled by the nonpartisan U.S. Congressional Research Service did not include Denver, or any other city in Colorado.
  • As the Rocky Mountain News reported on June 11, 2006, while some local law enforcement officials in Colorado fail to turn in immigrants, "it has nothing to do with any sanctuary policy." The article quoted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (known as BICE or ICE) spokesman Carl Rusnok as saying, "There aren't any cities in Colorado that refuse to call us. ... I know of no Colorado city that has a policy against calling ICE."
  • The Denver Post reported on May 13, 2005, that during a discussion on Boyles' radio show, Tancredo and former Denver City Attorney Cole Finegan "sparred over two executive orders signed by former Mayor Webb that Tancredo points to as evidence Denver has a sanctuary policy. One, signed in 1998, prohibits discrimination against foreign nationals in delivering city services. The other, signed in 2002, established Denver's policy for accepting some forms of foreign ID cards." The Post article (accessed through the Nexis database) further noted that, according to Finegan, "[t]hose orders do not discourage cooperation with immigration authorities and, therefore, do not represent a sanctuary policy."
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