Friday, September 12, 2008


Gov. Bill Ritter today directed Colorado Department of Public Safety Executive Director Peter Weir to undertake an immediate review of systemic gaps in local, state and federal law enforcement efforts exposed by two cases involving illegal immigrants in Aurora this past week.
Gov. Ritter asked Executive Director Weir to convene law enforcement officials, policymakers, community stakeholders and other experts to identify solutions that can be enacted at the local and state levels.
In a phone call Thursday to Assistant Secretary Julie Lyn Myers of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Gov. Ritter invited ICE to actively participate in this effort.
"Immigration enforcement is ultimately the responsibility of the federal government," Gov. Ritter said. "And clearly, Washington has failed to fix a broken system. But at the local and state levels where we are on the front lines, we have a responsibility to identify and help solve problems.
"We have done that in the past and continue to do so today," Gov. Ritter said. "But these two cases in Aurora tragically highlight the need to constantly review gaps and make changes to close them." 
Here is the complete text of Gov. Ritter's directive to Executive Director Weir:
September 12, 2008
Peter A. Weir
Executive Director
Colorado Department of Public Safety
700 Kipling Street
Denver, CO  80215
Dear Director Weir:
As you are aware, two recent incidents in Aurora involving local law enforcement contacts with illegal immigrants have once again highlighted the challenges surrounding these issues. In one of these cases, three innocent people are dead. 
During the past week, I have spoken with many people who are concerned, frustrated and angry about these issues, including community members, law enforcement officers and elected officials.  You and I have previously discussed the complexity of immigration issues and the ability of the state to effectively support law enforcement. 
These two most recent cases demonstrate two main difficulties that local and state law enforcement officers encounter every day when they contact offenders:  1) determining the immigration status of the individual, and 2) ensuring that those who are not lawfully present in the United States can be turned over to federal authorities for appropriate action, including detention and deportation.
State and local law enforcement officers continue to experience frustrations due to a lack of federal resources and a clear federal response. However, these federal challenges should not prevent state and local agencies from seeking solutions.  In fact, because we are on the front lines, we must constantly seek to identify shortcomings in the system, particularly where federal, state and local enforcement agencies intersect, and recommend solutions.
This approach has led to successful implementation of SB 06-225, which created the State Patrol's unique relationship with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) and the agreement that provides federal 287(g) authority to the Patrol's Immigration and Enforcement Unit.  This state-federal partnership has provided the Patrol with the ability to utilize federal immigration databases and to work closely with local ICE officers.  We have taken important steps to collect and share data relative to that Unit's efforts to interdict and apprehend smugglers and traffickers. 
While our relationship with ICE is an important tool to stop smuggling, many resource gaps remain. 
We have also listened to concerns expressed by members of the General Assembly, and partnered with state legislators in devising strategies to bolster Colorado's efforts.  As part of this collaboration, at my direction, you convened an Immigration Summit on April 25, 2008 at the Capitol, which drew more than 85 attendees.  Presentations were made by representatives from the United States Attorney's Office, the Colorado State Patrol's Immigration Enforcement Unit, the Colorado District Attorneys' Council, the County Sheriffs of Colorado, the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Colorado Network to End Human Trafficking.  This Summit provided information about efforts underway to identify and prosecute human smugglers.  Unfortunately, local ICE officers were restricted from participating in any meetings that included policy discussions.  We need to reengage the federal authorities in this process.
As noted above, the recent cases in Aurora underscore the need to continue our efforts to identify problems, measure system gaps, and offer proposals for solutions.  Therefore, I am asking that you convene a working group of community stakeholders, including law enforcement, policymakers and legislators, to: 
  • Identify the problems faced by local and state law enforcement relative to the enforcement of the state and municipal criminal laws involving illegal immigrants.
  • Identify information gaps and barriers to sharing criminal justice and immigration status information among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
  • Discuss whether there are specific statutory or other changes that might address some of the problems.
  • Facilitate a discussion of policy recommendations to the federal government to address the problems identified by local and state law enforcement.
This effort should begin as soon as possible.  We can consult further over the next week to determine the group's membership.  A report of the working group's findings and recommendations should be prepared for review by me and the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, no later than December 31, 2008.  I understand that we cannot expect that this working group will solve the complex immigration problems that must be addressed in Washington, D.C.  However, I believe it is important that Colorado law enforcement work together to identify people who commit crimes, determine immigration status of offenders, and demand that the federal authorities are provided the resources to do their jobs to deal with those who are not legally present in our country. 
Thank you, in advance, for your work on these issues.  I look forward to receiving your report and findings.
Bill Ritter, Jr.