Colorado school district backs away from ICE-affiliated police officers

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A school district in western Colorado is asking local police departments not to assign police officers to its schools who also participate in federal immigration enforcement activities.

The board of the Roaring Fork School District, which encompasses the cities of Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Basalt, voted unanimously in mid-March to approve a new agreement with local police departments that calls on them to use "extraordinary discretion" in assigning immigration duties to police officers assigned to schools. Immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility, but ICE has entered into agreements with some local law enforcement agencies.  

The association of a Carbondale police officer assigned to school duty with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials sparked controversy in fall 2011 when community activists believed that he had led ICE officials to illegal immigrant families with children in district schools. The Roaring Fork School District is 52 percent Hispanic.

The Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also got involved; according to a March 20 ACLU statement, the Homeland Security Department office of civil rights and civil liberties has opened an investigation into potential civil rights abuses.

Federal law prohibits blocking access to public schools regardless of immigration status. The ACLU says the new school district agreement doesn't go far enough.

"To be clear, the school board should outright ban any collaboration between [school-assigned police officers] and immigration authorities, and its failure to do so is almost certain to increase students' distrust," said ACLU of Colorado staff attorney Rebecca Wallace.

For more:
view the MOU
- see the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition statement
- see the ACLU statement

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