Referrals on illegal immigrants in Colorado falling |

Referrals on illegal immigrants in Colorado falling

DENVER (AP) ” The average number of suspected illegal immigrants turned over to federal authorities by Colorado law enforcement agencies each month dropped last year, in comparison to the mandatory reporting law’s first year, according to reports to the state Legislature.

Officials and lawmakers credited stepped-up enforcement, employer sanctions and the economic downturn.

State lawmakers passed a bill in 2006 requiring police agencies to alert Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials when they detain or stop someone they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally.

The law, co-sponsored by state Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock, also requires agencies to notify the Legislature each March of how many names they sent to immigration officials in the previous year. There are exceptions for routine traffic tickets and arrests for domestic violence, until the case is resolved.

After the law went into effect in June 1, 2006, police and sheriff’s agencies referred about 15,200 people to ICE that year, or the equivalent of about 2,170 a month, the Rocky Mountain News reported in Saturday editions.

The newspaper reported that agencies forwarded about 15,900 names to ICE ” about 1,325 a month ” last year, with relatively few resulting in automatic holds for deportation, according to state and federal records. That’s almost a 40 percent drop.

Phil Spence of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office said political and economic issues, along with more efficient law enforcement may have played a part in the drop.

Spence said that the number of border agents has climbed to 18,000 from 4,000, the housing slump has led to a decline in jobs and more states are assembling teams to combat human trafficking, like Colorado has done in the state patrol.

Wiens said figures on medical claims and school enrollment support the idea that the number of immigrants here illegally has declined.

However average monthly referrals rose in Weld County, Aurora and Adams County, records show.

Weld County Undersheriff Margie Martinez said numbers were up in her county because ICE worked out bugs from the system during the first year of reporting.

“It’s not that we are picking up more people, it’s that more people are being screened,” she said.

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