Colorado's sanctuary state law compels release of a dangerous criminal

As of May 28, the day that Governor Jared Polis signed Colorado House Bill 1124, law enforcement officials in the state of Colorado have been prohibited from holding illegal aliens solely on the basis of an immigration detainer request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE detainers are requests to detain illegal aliens who were placed under arrest by state or local authorities, for up to 48 hours beyond their release date, if ICE believes they are in the country illegally. Those 48 hours give ICE agents time to arrive at the jail and pick up the alien before his scheduled release.

HB 1124 prohibits Colorado law enforcement officers from complying with federal immigration detainers unless the officers are executing an arrest warrant issued by a judge.

On the following day, ICE released a statement in protest, reading By signing Colorado’s House Bill 1124, the state has codified a dangerous policy that deliberately obstructs our country’s lawful immigration system, protects serious criminal alien offenders, and undermines public safety.

The governor's office, in response: ICE’s reaction is “a tempest in a teapot.”

The case of Osmani Garces-Ortiz

On November 27, ICE announced that its Enforcement and Removal Operations component had placed a detainer on a 37 year old male by the name of Osmani Garces-Ortiz. This illegal alien from Cuba is currently being held in the Arapahoe County Jail (about 10 miles south of Denver) on charges of murder, assault and violation of a bail bond, among other charges.

Osmani Garces-Ortiz first illegally entered the U.S. in March 2008, by boat near Key West, Florida. After being encountered by U.S. immigration officials he was released on an order of recognizance, meaning that he was released with reporting conditions while in deportation proceedings and awaiting a final decision. His non-immigrant waiver expired in November 2012. In August 2015 he was denied permanent residence status in the U.S., due to his criminal history.

On October 24, 2019, ICE placed an immigration detainer on Garces-Ortiz while he was being held in the Arapahoe County Jail for possession of drugs, criminal trespassing and for violating a protection order. In keeping with the Colorado sanctuary legislation enacted in May, the Arapahoe County Jail could not legally honor the ICE detainer and the Cuban was released on bond on October 28.

The Police Department in Aurora (about 10 miles east of Denver) arrested Osmani Garces-Ortiz on November 21 for attempted murder, assault and violation of a bail bond, among other charges. ICE agents then lodged a second detainer on him. The Aurora Police Department returned him to custody with the Arapahoe County Sheriff on November 22.

What this means for the safety of Colorado residents

Thanks to the recently enacted sanctuary law in Colorado, local law enforcement jurisdictions must release aliens with criminal charges or even criminal convictions without notifying ICE. Aliens convicted of serious crimes must now be released to the streets, so they can continue to endanger the safety of communities in Colorado or elsewhere.