Aspen area cops: We won’t roundup illegal immigrants
December 12, 2016
Law enforcement in Aspen and Pitkin County will not round up undocumented immigrants no matter what the federal government under Donald Trump's presidency decides to do about them.
That's according to both Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor, who both repeated same thing to approximately 200 members of the Roaring Fork Valley Hispanic community at a forum in Glenwood Springs a week ago.
"My hope for (the Hispanic community) is they can live in the valley happily and free from fear," DiSalvo said. "We will work in Pitkin County to make sure we're not part of any roundup."
Pryor echoed those comments.
"In terms of knocking on doors and rounding up illegal immigrants — I do not ever see us doing that," he said.
Both men said there wouldn't be much they could do if confronted with a federal warrant for a particular person, especially if the person is wanted on violent charges. However, if asked to participate in rounding up people who live and work by society's rules, both men said they would decline to participate.
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"They are hardworking people," DiSalvo said. "They're pursuing the American dream."
DiSalvo also said he won't hold or detain people in the Pitkin County Jail just because they are undocumented immigrants. He also said deputies won't call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on them.
Samuel Bernal-Urbina, vice president of the company that runs Las Tres Colores radio station in Basalt, helped organize the forum at Glenwood Springs Middle School.
"After Trump's election, our community has been afraid of changes," Bernal-Urbina said. "Right after the election, people were crying (and wondered) what will happen to us.
"Part of our responsibility is to get them informed."
In addition to law enforcement personnel from Aspen, Pitkin County, Garfield County, Basalt and Carbondale, the forum also included immigration attorneys and clergy to help inform those in attendance.
In particular, DiSalvo's statements that he wouldn't go after illegal immigrants were reassuring, Bernal-Urbina said.
"It was great," he said. "They gave him applause."
Aspen Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra, a fluent Spanish speaker who also attended the forum Dec. 3, said she and Pryor wanted to make it clear they aren't interested in a person's immigration status. Rather, they want the Hispanic community to trust the police to serve them in the same way they serve everyone else in the community, she said.
"We're not here to question their legal status," Consuegra said. "We don't care. It doesn't matter to us."
Police especially don't want undocumented members of the community to, for example, be afraid to report a crime, Consuegra and Pryor said.
"They are part of this community," Consuegra said. "We don't want a victim to question if they should go to police or not."
A 29-year-old El Salvador native who lives in Carbondale and has worked in Aspen for about eight years said the fear of Trump in the Hispanic community in Aspen and Pitkin County is real.
"They are afraid they will get deported," said the woman, who is a legal resident but requested anonymity. "They just fear for their families."
She said that while the assurances from DiSalvo and Pryor are comforting, a lot of uncertainty remains.
"Of course if (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers come to the valley, they can do what they want," she said. "Let's see what's going to happen.
"I just couldn't believe it that (Trump) won."