Douglas County sues Colorado, claims recent immigration laws are unconstitutional


(The Center Square) – Douglas County officials filed a lawsuit against Colorado and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to challenge the constitutionality of two immigration laws.

In a 13-page petition filed in Denver District Court, the officials claim two state laws prohibit law enforcement from arresting and detaining illegal immigrants, prohibit state judicial officials from sharing information with federal immigration officials and prohibit local governments from entering into agreements with the federal government for immigration enforcement.

“There is an illegal immigration crisis in America,” Douglas County Commissioner George Teal, a Republican, said in a statement. “We have been proactive, taking steps to mitigate the crisis here … What has been missing is the ability of our local law enforcement agencies to work with immigration officials. This is what we seek to solve through this legal action.”

The lawsuit challenges House Bills 19-1124 and 23-1100 as violating the intergovernmental relationships provision of the Colorado Constitution. The provision prohibits laws stopping local governments from cooperating or contracting with the federal government.

“We cooperate with our federal partners,” Douglas County Undersheriff David Walcher said during a press conference on Monday. “Things like this tell us we can’t even cooperate with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], a federal law enforcement agency. That is absolutely ridiculous.”

The lawsuit also claims the laws violate constitutional publishing requirements aimed at preventing confusion.

The lawsuit states the 2019 law violates the separation of powers in the state constitution as it allows the legislature to direct judicial employees. It also claims the U.S. Supremacy Clause, which prohibits state laws from violating federal laws, applies as federal immigration law preempted state law.

“We believe in leading with compassion, but it’s not compassionate to bring migrants to a cold climate without the right resources and no place warm to stay,” Republican Abe Laydon, a county commissioner who also chairs the Douglas County Homeless Initiative, said in a statement. “We know why people want to come to America – and specifically Douglas County, yet we have a responsibility to honor those who do so through proper channels – and we welcome those who do.”

The lawsuit is the seventh immigration action taken by the county since last October. Previous steps include a resolution declaring that Douglas County is not a sanctuary jurisdiction, and a letter to Democratic Denver Mayor Mike Johnston requesting the repeal of two sanctuary laws. The county also passed an emergency ordinance to prohibit the driver of a commercial vehicle from stopping and unloading passengers in unincorporated Douglas County other than at documented locations.

“The national migrant crisis has forced Denver to continue to cut local services for residents,” Commissioner Lora Thomas, a Republican, said in a statement. “We have an obligation first to our citizens, and we see what’s happening in Denver as a warning sign to be proactive here in Douglas County. Unfortunately, since the federal government has not taken action at the border, this legal action is now necessary for the preservation of public welfare, health and safety of our local community.”

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