How to continue to improve communication between the Latino community and law enforcement was the topic of Saturday’s panel discussion in Silverthorne at the first Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. Latino community representatives included Estrella Ruiz and Nicole Bernal from Western Colorado’s Hispanic Affairs Project and Veronica Rosas from United for Equality, with the panel including law enforcement officers such as Joe Pelle, the Sheriff of Boulder County, and Dillon Police Chief Mark Heminghous.
Pelle says his agency has succeeded in improving relations with immigrants and the Latino community over the course of the last few years. “We worked our way, painfully, through a lot of legislative efforts,” he explained. The Community and Law Enforcement Trust Act was passed in Colorado in April 2013, repealing the 2006 Colorado SB 90 bill that required police to report to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) anybody they suspected of not having the legal right to be in the United States.
The County of Sheriffs of Colorado were in favor of the 2013 trust act, as were the Colorado Associations of Police Chiefs, the Colorado Municipal League and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. Pelle says that Colorado counties no longer honor ICE detainees, with this statement greeted with thunderous applause.
Pelle added that the police will no longer ask about the residency or citizenship of those they speak to. “People need to trust the police to call them for help,” he points out. “If people are afraid to call police, because of their immigration status, it makes our job difficult.”