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Immigrants’ Rights are at Stake in Local Colorado Elections

Holding Aurora, CO City Council Candidates Accountable on Immigrant Detention Conditions
Anna Dardick,
Campaign Strategist,
American Civil Liberties Union
Jen Samano,
Campaign Coordinator,
ACLU of Colorado
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November 1, 2019

When we think of local government, what might come to mind are mundane topics such as garbage collection and pothole repairs. However, similar to representatives in the state legislature and Congress, city councils legislate on civil rights and civil liberties issues that affect entire cities. While off-year elections are often characterized by low voter turnout, they deal with high stakes issues. This year, five of ten city council seats are up for election.

Earlier this fall, an ACLU of Colorado investigative report revealed inhumane conditions and deadly medical neglect at the privately-owned, ICE-contracted immigration detention facility in Aurora, Colorado. Kamyar Samimi, a legal permanent resident, had lived in the U.S. for 40 years and raised three children before ICE detained him. Two weeks later, he died in ICE custody at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility.

In order to prevent any more of our neighbors dying, we’re demanding that future City Council members support and advocate for ordinances that create oversight for ICE detention, limit the city’s cooperation with ICE, limit the local resources available for immigration enforcement, and stop the expansion of private immigration detention centers.

The ACLU is also working to protect the role of public defenders in the courts. We believe that public defenders should have the ability to work ethically and independently with equal accommodations and resources as criminal prosecutors. Therefore, we are also calling on future City Council members to support effective and independent indigent defense in Aurora.

With so much at stake in Aurora this year, we launched a voter education and mobilization campaign with the goal of creating a mandate for politicians to enact polices that expand civil rights and freedoms for all. Election time is when candidates are most open to pressure and most willing to move on policy, so we’re making sure City Council candidates know issues like detention center conditions matter to voters. We sent questionnaires to each ballot-qualified candidate to gauge their positions on our issues. Now, we’re getting that information into the hands of voters.

By Election Day, we will reach more than 25,000 Aurora voters with critical information through mailers, text messages and digital advertisements. We’re also taking to the streets to engage directly with more voters through volunteer canvasses. Young volunteers from across the metro area are coming together in Aurora to talk with their neighbors about key civil liberties issues.

Civil rights and our democracy are under attack like never before. With so many assaults on our freedoms, it can be an overwhelming time for voters and advocates. However, by engaging on a local level we can energize voters and protect the civil liberties of everyone in our community.

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