Colorado Editorial Roundup
The Denver Post, Sept. 4, on Teller and El Paso county sheriffs being on the wrong side of the law:
The sheriffs in Teller and El Paso counties got it wrong when they decided to hold people in jail — beyond when a judge ordered they be released — at the behest of immigration officials.
To put it simply, no one can be held in jail without a legal basis and violations of federal immigration laws are civil, not criminal, matters.
This isn’t a question of liberal sanctuary city policies that are protecting immigrants from deportation; fundamentally, this is a question of civil liberties. The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has filed lawsuits against both sheriffs departments for their practices.
We suspect that if these separate cases from southern Colorado come before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the ruling will be that Colorado law enforcement agencies cannot honor civil detainers — which are tantamount to requests — from immigration officials without a judge issuing an arrest warrant.
Other federal courts have already weighed in on the issue and ruled that law enforcement in Oregon and Pennsylvania cannot hold people in jail on civil detainers. The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently ruled similarly.
This is an issue that the U.S. Supreme Court needs to address.
But aside from the legal question, there is also the pressing policy question, one that gets to the heart of “sanctuary city” policies: Should local law enforcement be in the business of helping federal officials detain people who are immigration priorities?
In other words, should our state lawmakers be attempting to pass a law that recognizes civil immigration offenses as arrestable offenses under Colorado law, something that would empower law enforcement to make an arrest based on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer request or to take it a step further to make arrests based on suspected immigration violations?
We are convinced that local law enforcement functions best when they are not entangled in the complicated business of trying to enforce federal immigration laws. America is not and should not be a country where everyone must carry their papers or risk arrest. Nor should it be a country where victims who lack citizenship are afraid to call police or where innocent bystanders run from crime scenes so they don’t risk being taken in for questioning.
Already our police and sheriffs departments are cooperating with immigration officials — passing along the fingerprints of everyone booked into jail to federal authorities for screening, and notifying ICE officials if people who have been flagged immigration priorities are going to be released.
A painful reminder of the short-comings of this system was the murder of Tim Cruz at the Sheridan Boulevard RTD station in February 2017. Ever Valles pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and accessory to murder in that case. Valles had been released from jail a year before the crime despite being a priority for ICE agents.
Notice of Valles’s release was sent to ICE agents only 20 minutes before Valles posted $5,000 bond and was released.
Surely, more could have been done in that case to keep Valles off the streets. After all, Valles was held for two months in jail before his release, giving ample time for ICE officials to come up with a plan to apprehend the deportation priority.
Our broken federal immigration laws have hoisted this impossible balancing act upon local law enforcement, who are doing their best to keep our communities safe. It’s time for Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
(Colorado Springs) The Gazette, Sept. 4, on Attorney General Jeff Sessions needing to investigate Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission:
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, an attorney, dove headfirst into cake law last week.
In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Colorado Springs Republican asks the Department of Justice to investigate the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for violating the First Amendment rights of Colorado cake designer Jack Phillips.
Sessions should take the congressman’s advice and launch the investigation.
At issue is Colorado government’s harassment of Phillips, who owns Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood. The commission penalized Phillips for declining to design a cake for the celebration of a same-sex marriage in 2012.
Conversely, the same commission upheld the discrimination rights of a baker who refused to design a cake featuring a scriptural interpretation that offended her.
The commission condemns content-based discrimination against a gay couple but condones content-based discrimination on a basis of religion.
Liberals and conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court understood the double standard and denounced it in the majority ruling of Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Civil Rights Commission.
“A principled rationale for the difference in treatment of these two instances cannot be based on the government’s own assessment of offensiveness,” the ruling explains.
The court cited West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnett, in which the majority ruled “no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.”
The 7-2 majority ruling on June 4 excoriated the commission for violating the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and the “state’s duty under the First Amendment not to base laws or regulation on hostility to a religion.”
After that ruling, the Civil Rights Commission doubled down. It ruled against Phillips 24 days later for declining to design a cake celebrating the fifth anniversary of attorney Autumn Scardina’s gender transition from male to female.
Newsweek reports Scardina’s history of antagonizing Phillips with cake requests she knows he won’t fulfill.
“The baker was recently cited by the state of Colorado for wrongly denying a transgender customer’s birthday cake request — the same person that Phillips suspects requested the Satan cakes,” Newsweek reports.
One cake request included Satan licking a 9-inch mechanical sex toy. Another had Satan smoking a joint.
The Civil Rights Commission’s arbitrary prescription of morality in cake design — detailed by the Supreme Court — raises a question: Will the Civil Rights Commission force bakers to design cakes for “conversion therapy” celebrations?
Just as some individuals transition from one gender to another, others claim a transition from homosexual to heterosexual orientation through conversion therapy. Although society increasingly accepts gender transitions, legislators in Colorado and other states work to regulate and ban conversion therapy. One form of transition is popular, the other is not.
In this market of gotcha activism, the Civil Rights Commission should hawkishly enforce civil rights without regard for popular sentiment or politics. It cannot serve as a board that sanctions popular beliefs by punishing less fashionable views. Civil rights are not defined by contemporary mores.
As discovered by the U.S. Supreme Court, Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission violates the First Amendment by selectively punishing on a basis of ideology and content.
“The Department of Justice cannot continue to allow a biased arbiter, who holds a near monopoly on anti-discrimination cases within the state, to continue to wage a personal campaign against individuals they disagree with,” Lamborn said in a statement.
The commission has no intention of changing its ways, as seen in the latest ruling that favors a known antagonist openly hostile to Phillips. Lamborn’s request makes sense. The Department of Justice should investigate this rogue commission that mocks civil rights.
Greeley Tribune, Sept. 1, on District 6′s test scores needing to be celebrated:
To really appreciate how good the news was coming out of Greeley-Evans School District 6 last week, you have to know how bad things were at one point.
The district had one of the worst reputations in the state. Parents were pulling their kids for shinier charter schools or schools in other districts. It was so bad community leaders banded together to try to raise money for the district because the reputation hurt Greeley’s economy as it was another obstacle to get any new businesses to come here.
Yet last week, the district learned more District 6 schools got the state’s highest rating than ever before.
Perhaps the one worth cheering the most is Prairie Heights Middle School. The school performed poorly on test scores for seven years in a row. The school was directed last year by the state board of education to enter innovation status to improve its performance. This year, it jumped from priority improvement, the second-lowest rating, to performance, the highest.
Prairie Heights’ story is a great one — the school principal, Dawn Hillman, choked back tears upon reflection — but it’s not the only one worth cheering: Billie Martinez and Centennial elementary schools also jumped from one of the state’s lowest ratings to the highest.
These accomplishments are even more impressive given they are strong examples of the district’s struggle with poverty. We have said many times it’s almost unfair to judge our district against others that don’t face nearly the same challenges. And our district was hit in two ways. First, it was severely underfunded before residents finally ponied up for a tax increase last year (and as great as that was, it remains a low-funded district, especially by comparison). And it served many low-income students who had parents working hard, out of the home, to provide. Some of these students didn’t eat much unless they went to school. Imagine trying to concentrate with an empty stomach.
The district, of course, had some disappointing results, but even those were somewhat understandable. Meeker Elementary, for instance, was flooded after a water main break, leaving the students displaced at best. And the Fred Tjardes School of Innovation was rated as a turnaround school, as well, but it just completed its first year, and remember, it was innovation that helped Prairie Heights climb out of its hole. We hope the district can be patient with that one. Salida Del Sol is a charter school and continues to struggle, and time is running out for it. That school simply needs to improve.
We know the district will continue to face challenges, but we are thrilled to see how it’s improved through the years, especially since the arrival of Superintendent Deirdre Pilch. We hope the district can keep her, as other troubled districts surely will take notice.
For many years, Greeley was forced to think of our schools as a weakness of our community. It’s nice to finally begin to think of them as a strength.
Coloradoan, Aug. 31, on Colorado being ready to change how it handles redistricting:
The ballot for November’s election promises to be long and complicated as voters decide a slew of races for statewide and local elected offices as well as several ballot issues.
The Coloradoan editorial board plans to provide opinions and endorsements on races and ballot measures that matter most to readers. Let’s start with an easy one.
Proposed amendments Y and Z to the state constitution would change Colorado’s system for redrawing boundaries for congressional districts as well as House and Senate districts for the state General Assembly.
Redistricting is done every 10 years following the national census. The intent is to have districts with roughly the same number of residents. In Colorado, state law dictates the process, which is overseen by the Legislature.
In most states, including Colorado, redistricting is heavily politicized and messy as Republicans and Democrats battle over district lines to protect their turf. The parties are not interested in competitive elections: They want to continue a status quo that favors their numbers and interests.
Redistricting can result in blatant drawing of district boundaries to favor the party controlling the process. Boundaries are drawn to include or exclude neighborhoods based on voter registration information, demographics and electoral history.
The practice is known as gerrymandering. It’s a way to fix the outcome of elections for years to come. Gerrymandering would be expressly prohibited under the amendments.
Colorado has a long history of disputes over redistricting, with courts ending up deciding the configuration of district maps the last 20 years.
The amendments come in advance of the 2020 U.S. Census, which is expected to add a congressional district to the state based on Colorado’s population growth.
Amendment Y would change how congressional districts are drawn; Amendment Z would change how state House and Senate districts are drawn. In both cases, responsibility would be taken from the Legislature and given to a 12-member independent commission.
The commission would be made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and four unaffiliated members. Commissioners would come from all the state’s congressional districts.
A three-member panel of retired judges would filter applications to be on the commission. Half of the commission would be selected through a lottery system; the other half would be picked by the judges, who would weigh factors such as a candidate’s gender as well as their and geographic, political and ethnic backgrounds.
Preliminary maps would be drawn by nonpartisan legislative staff members. To be adopted, at least eight of the 12 commissioners, including at least two unaffiliated members, must approve the map.
The idea is to have districts that are relatively compact with about the same number of residents while not splitting communities of interest and political subdivisions, such as cities and counties.
One of the goals of the process would be to create districts that are competitive and fair. That might not be possible in every district given the other factors that would go into establishing boundaries, but it’s an admirable target.
Support for the amendments comes from unusually diverse sources. Bipartisan cooperation at the General Assembly for the proposals brought them to the ballot with unanimous support in the House and Senate.
There is no identified opposition to the amendments, although we understand members of minor parties such as the Green, Constitutional and Libertarian aren’t happy that seats for unaffiliated commissioners would go to residents who are not members of any party, not just the Republican and Democrat parties.
But we think the prescribed makeup of the commission is reflective of Colorado and its voters. A third of voters do not want to be associated with any party, although they should still have a say in how election districts are created.
The Coloradoan editorial board supports the proposed amendments and the stability and rationality they promise to bring to Colorado’s method for redistricting. Perhaps this method could serve as a model for other states to follow.
To be adopted, the amendments must be approved by 55 percent of voters in the November election.
We hope voters see the value of the proposals and the goal of having fair and truly representative elections. Colorado is ready for a change in the status quo.