Tancredo Launches Ad Blaming Hickenlooper for Toddler’s Death

October 06, 2010 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Via Dave Weigel, Tom Tancredo, who is running as the Constitutional Party’s candidate for Colorado governor, has a new ad bashing opponent John Hickenlooper’s so-called sanctuary policies for illegal immigrants as mayor of Denver. The ad, despite its low production value, is a sad one: A father tells the story of an illegal immigrant crashing his car into a Baskin Robbins store and killing the man’s three-year-old son. The man claims the immigrant had 16 previous arrests, but was not deported under Denver’s “sanctuary” policies.

“I’m sending you his picture, Mr. Mayor,” the man says to Hickenlooper. “Try to sleep at night knowing your policies contributed to his death.”

Ouch.

But there are some major problems with this message. For one, “sanctuary city” is a misnomer — no city in the U.S. prevents Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from enforcing immigration laws. In truth, the name delineates the extent to which police officers are instructed to get involved in immigration enforcement. While some cities have joined the 287 (g) program, which deputizes local officers to identify illegal immigrants, Denver has not. It also has yet to join Secure Communities, a fingerprint-sharing program between local law enforcements and federal immigration officials. These programs are not mandated by federal law, so Denver officials are within their rights to stay out of them. And they have reasons not to: Advocates of so-called sanctuary policies argue they increase public safety by expanding trust in police.

As for criminals: Denver’s police guidelines require officers to refer arrested illegal immigrants to ICE, which has promised to prioritize illegal immigrants considered dangerous. While backlogs have led ICE to release some detainees in recent months, it only does so if the illegal immigrant has a potential path to legal residency — disqualifying those with criminal records.

It’s tough to say why the man described in the ad was not deported. But to claim Denver shields criminals from federal immigration enforcement is simply untrue.

Here’s the ad: