NOI 29: What do Ukraine and Colorado Have in Common? Quid Pro Quos in the Immigration Context

From implementing wide-ranging laws to withholding funds and federal, Attorney Jacob Tingen discusses the impact of the Trump administration's aggressive posture on immigration.

Jacob Tingen: Welcome back to Nation of Immigrants. We are back with another episode. The title for today’s episode is a little tongue in cheek. What do Ukraine and Colorado have in common? The answer is not much, but when it comes to the immigration debate, there might be some things that surprise you here. More to come after our intro.

Announcer: You’re listening to Nation of Immigrants.

President Obama: America is a nation of immigrants.

Announcer: A podcast about US immigration law, with your host Jacob Tingen.

Jacob Tingen: Okay, so for some reason Colorado keeps coming up in the immigration debate recently. It could be perhaps because President Trump said that they were building a border wall between Colorado and New Mexico so that the new Mexicans could not get in. Slip of the tongue or whatever you want to call that, is interesting. That happened about a week ago, but what I want to talk about is this recent headline I saw about immigration policy with local jurisdictions, says, “Immigration dispute with Trump administration costs small Colorado towns.”

Jacob Tingen: So I wanted to comment on this article and talk about what’s happening. And again, like I said, the title for today’s episode is a little tongue in cheek. What do Ukraine and Colorado have in common? Well, they’re both having federal funds withheld as a quid pro quo for something that the administration wants. So in the case of Ukraine, if you’ve been following the impeachment inquiry, it was to open an investigation into democratic rivals.

Jacob Tingen: But when it comes to Colorado, it’s basically the Trump administration has withheld federal funding that traditionally went to Colorado without some of the conditions that they have been trying to place on it. They’ve been adding conditions for greater cooperation with ICE. And Colorado has said, “No, this doesn’t make our town any safer, but now you’re conditioning federal funds, the receipt of federal funds that we’ve received for years on these immigration things that have nothing to do with this program or what we’re doing and all you’re doing is hurting us.”

Jacob Tingen: And so, what’s interesting here is they came up with an example of these federal funds. They’re given through a program called a Byrne JAG Federal grant program. It’s called judge assistance grants named after Edward Byrne, which is interesting that it was named after a New York City police officer murdered in 88′ who was protecting an immigrant from firebombings. And so, that’s an interesting immigration angle that this police officer was doing his level best and lost his life protecting an immigrant.

Jacob Tingen: And now these funds are being withheld from going to Colorado because frankly they’re protecting immigrants, at least that’s the accusation coming out of the Trump administration. Well, to give you an example of the kinds of programs that these funds have been funding, it keeps kids out of jail for petty crimes. So, one of the jurisdiction in Colorado had been using this grant money to create a program to keep kids out of prison. And instead of just arresting and jailing people for small offenses and of course harmful offenses, but these are just kids we’re talking about.

Jacob Tingen: So for like shoplifting, instead of just putting them in jail, they would bring the owner of the store and they would bring the kid and they’d sit them across a table from each other and let them have a conversation and force a dialogue, which would lead to frankly the kids learning a little. There’s a lot of evidence that just putting people in jail doesn’t really help recidivism. That’s the rate of repeating a crime is high, especially when we put kids in jail and that’s our solution. It hasn’t been a real solution to the problem of juvenile delinquency. And if we start treating children like criminals at a very young age, it’s unlikely that that cycle would stop.

Jacob Tingen: So this has been a successful program and now it won’t have funding. There are in this news article an abundance of examples where these funds that again are are going to these states and local jurisdictions do a lot of good in the community, but because they’re being held up over essentially an immigration fight that they shouldn’t be fighting, is leading to this negative result. So there’s now a lawsuit after these funds. And it’s interesting what the judge will decide on whether or not these funds have to be issued or not. But it’s basically the Trump administration is asking for a quid pro quo. Hey, you do more immigration enforcement stuff with us, we’ll give you this money. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen.

Jacob Tingen: But what’s interesting is that the state of Colorado itself has said, “Hey look, we can’t take this money under those conditions. But even if we did, like we can’t force the local jurisdictions, the local municipalities to act in a certain way, like we’re not in charge of them.” But then also in addition to that, what’s interesting here is that Colorado was arguing that if you give us this money, our state will be safer. And then, the federal government is arguing, if we don’t give you this money because you’re not helping us with immigration enforcements, if you helped us with immigration enforcement, your state would be safer. And I’ve said this before, I’m going to say it again. There’s a lot of evidence out there that indicates that immigrants commit crimes at a much lower rate than everybody else.

Jacob Tingen: And so, it’s a bit of a misnomer to say, oh, unless you hand us over all your immigrants, your community won’t be safe. That’s not true. But we won’t give you this money that is proven to make your community safer because we think we know best. It’s kind of an odd federal government thing going on here. So, it’s been an interesting article to read and just look at and consider. And what’s interesting is the primary policy that’s at the root of all of this federal and ICE cooperation between local jurisdictions is something we’ve touched on a bit in the past and we haven’t tackled it head on, but it’s this ICE detainer policy where ICE or the federal government wants local jurisdictions to hold on to immigrants for an additional period of time beyond when they would normally be released, so that ICE can, at their convenience, come and pickup immigrants.

Jacob Tingen: It’s a program that’s been decried as unconstitutional. There’ve been multiple lawsuits. At one point we saw the lawsuits going one way and now we’re seeing lawsuits going the other way, both in favor of and against this policy. And so, we’ll see more action on this and we’ll see more interaction between local jurisdictions and the federal government as people decide whether or not this policy is constitutional.

Jacob Tingen: So, that’s pretty much it for Nation of Immigrants. I just wanted to talk about how the Trump administration is using this withholding of funds to try the power of the purse to try to implement an immigration agenda that frankly Colorado doesn’t want to implement. If they were seeing ultra high levels of immigrant immigrant crime, I’m sure they’d be excited to cooperate more with the federal law enforcement. If it were truly a problem, local law enforcement would be saying, “Oh man, yeah, of course, we absolutely have to do this,” but it’s clearly not a problem because even these local jurisdictions are saying, no, we’re not going to do that. It doesn’t make our communities safer. One of the quotes here was that people in the community would actually feel less safe, because immigrants would feel like they can’t talk to police and get help.

Jacob Tingen: That’s what one of the local police official said is that if immigrants know that we’re cooperating with ice in this manner, they’re not going to want to talk to us. They’re not going to want to help us with cases. So there is this odd incentivizing of certain behaviors and we’ve talked about visas, like the U visas and how backed up they are and how there’s no lobbying arm to help them get faster visas. And in particular in the climate right now, it’s unlikely that they will get assistance even faster. But we’ve talked about the need for visas like the U visas, so the immigrants know they can cooperate with police. That was an issue that’s been brought up in this article too, that local law enforcement says, ‘Well, hey, we don’t want immigrants to be afraid to talk to us, but if we cooperate in this way, they will and that will make our communities less safe.” There’s literally no safety justification to withhold these funds.

Jacob Tingen: There’s no safety justification to push for the ICE detainer program in any jurisdiction in particular. And again, as we’ve mentioned already, yes, some immigrants do commit crime, but not at the rate that people who are not immigrants. Immigrants tend to commit crimes at much lower rates. So again, that’s it for Nation of Immigrants. If your local jurisdiction has an issue with ICE detainers or you’re curious about some kind of federal funding that’s tied to cooperation with ICE, that’s something that I’m actually… This is an area of specific interest for me and we’ll be talking more about some action that will be taken here locally on this issue.

Jacob Tingen: But yeah, support Nation of Immigrants, follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. We now have more than a hundred subscribers, so thank you very much. And then of course, you can support the podcast by going to and donating there. And we’re finalizing again our 501c-3 setup, so that those funds can be tax deductible and that they’re going towards paying off immigrants legals. Thanks again for listening and have a good one.

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