Monday, May 16, 2005

DENVER — Protesters demanded yesterday that Denver Mayor John W. Hickenlooper rescind the city’s sanctuary policies, which they said attract illegal aliens like Raul Garcia-Gomez, who is accused of killing a police officer.

?We’re mad as hell. We, the people, will no longer tolerate sanctuary cities,? said Fred Elbel, director of the Colorado Alliance of Immigration Reform, one of several groups that organized the rally.

About 50 demonstrators gathered in front of the Denver City and County Building and held signs with messages such as ?No Sanctuary? and ?Illegal aliens come to do the jobs Americans won’t do. For some, that job is murder.?

Mr. Hickenlooper has insisted that Denver is not a sanctuary city, but critics argue that the administration has a de facto policy on welfare benefits and tolerant law enforcement that makes the community an attractive destination for undocumented aliens.

?Folks, what we are talking about here is the illegal granting of rewards to those whose first act on American soil is to break our laws,? said Jefferson County Treasurer Mark Paschall, a former state legislator who is planning to run for Congress in 2006.

State Rep. David Schultheis recounted how the Democrat-controlled legislature killed four bills in the 2004 session designed to help the state grapple with the flood of illegal aliens.

?The people of Colorado not only want us to do something, frankly, they’re starting to demand it,? said Mr. Schultheis, a Republican.

The protest came in response to the Mother’s Day fatal shooting of Denver Detective Donald Young, 44. Police say Garcia-Gomez ambushed Detective Young and another detective after the off-duty officers refused to let him re-enter a baptismal party. Garcia-Gomez was said to have been unruly at the event.

Police are offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Garcia-Gomez. They fear that he has fled to Los Angeles and might try to escape prosecution by returning to Mexico, where officials refuse to extradite Mexican citizens who face the death penalty or life in prison without the chance of parole.

After the rally, organizers presented a letter to Mr. Hickenlooper’s office asking that the mayor rescind Executive Order 116, which prevents the city from withholding welfare benefits for illegal aliens.

The letter also asked the mayor to eliminate sections from the Denver police manual that bar officers from detaining or questioning suspects about their immigration status unless they have been arrested for another crime.

Garcia-Gomez, 19, was pulled over and ticketed three times in seven months by officers who never asked him about his immigration status, even though he had only a Mexican driver’s license and no insurance.

In a statement, Mr. Hickenlooper said the city’s police policy complied with federal law and was similar to ?those used by local law-enforcement agencies across the country.?

?It is unfortunate that information being spread is not on only untrue, but is a distraction from the real issue at hand, which is the tragic loss of Det. Young and the urgency to find his killer and bring him to justice,? the mayor said.

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