DENVER – Colorado lawmakers will introduce a bill to establish guidelines on how personal information can be shared with federal agencies.
The proposed legislation announced Thursday at a press conference with state lawmakers and immigrant rights groups, is a response to emails obtained through an open records request by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition which revealed “unsanctioned data sharing” between the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles and ICE agents.
Arash Jahanian, director of policy and civil rights litigation at the Meyer Law Office in Denver, said there were hundreds of families potentially affected by the data sharing.
“When allowed, ICE mines the personal information entrusted to state agencies to carry out its lawless mission, turning state officials who should be serving and protecting their residents into ICE’s henchmen to the detriment of the community,” Jahanian said.
Under the bill, personal information cannot be used for immigration enforcement, Jahanian said. Personal information would only be disclosed for criminal law enforcement with a warrant, subpoena or another order signed by a judge.
Because of the health and economic concerns of the coronavirus pandemic, compounded with the trauma of immigration policy under the Trump administration, Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Democrat from Denver and one of the bill sponsors, said the fear has caused undocumented families and individuals to withdraw and lose trust in local government.
“It is our responsibility in the state to ensure that all Coloradans have trust in our state agencies. That trust has been broken and its on us to make it right,” Gonzales said.
The fear of their undocumented status being shared has prevented many from accessing medical services, day care enrollment and food banks, said Maria Albañil-Rangel, immigrant advocacy coordinator with Tri-County Health Network.
The fear has also affected immigrant communities during the pandemic with hesitancy toward contact tracing and receiving a vaccine.
Colorado announced that the state would not require an ID for vaccine access. But Gonzales said that “fear is an overriding emotion” and still prevents families from wanting to put themselves at risk.
Albañil-Rangel shared her own experience with two undocumented parents. Her father was deported in 2012 and she feared the same for her mother.
“Every day I lived in a constant fear that by outing my mother, even if it was in scholarship application, I ran the risk of losing her, too. And that is the reality that most of our families are facing,” Albañil-Rangel said.
The bill will be introduced after the Colorado lawmakers return to the Capitol for the 2021 legislative session on Feb. 16.