For Immediate Release
Contact: Ian Pham or 713-679-0948
Upcoming legislation will create consistent process for requests of personal information to be submitted, vetted, and granted when appropriate
Denver, CO – Today, legislative leaders and immigrant community advocates announced their support for upcoming legislation that would protect the personal identifying information Coloradans share with the state when accessing state agency services during a press conference featuring legislative champions, immigration advocates, and community leaders.
The legislation, sponsored by State Senator Julie Gonzales (D-Denver) and Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez (D-Denver), aims to restore trust between Colorado’s immigrant communities and the state. Following a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request by the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition (CIRC), this trust was broken as results revealed consistent and deliberate communication between Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) employees and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Over 200 emails show staff in the DMV fraud investigations unit operating as unofficial deputized immigration officers by proactively helping ICE identify, surveil and detain individuals — in all instances without a warrant, order or subpoena.
This unsanctioned information sharing confirmed the worst fears of the immigrant community, who placed trust in government services by sharing sensitive information to receive a driver’s license as laid out by SB13-251. This could impact the safety of all Coloradans. Governor Polis and new leadership within the DMV have made substantive administrative changes to address the unsanctioned data sharing practices. Governor Polis’ Guidance on Data Privacy, signed in May 2020, established consistent data privacy practices within Colorado state departments and created restrictions on requests for personal information. Now, lawmakers seek to strengthen those changes and make them permanent in law.
During today’s press conference, participants called for swift passage once the bill is introduced. Speakers highlighted the fact that practices that promote unwarranted data-sharing jeopardize public safety and cultivate a climate of fear that drives some of our most vulnerable community members deep into the shadows. They underscored the importance of restoring community trust to overall Coloradan’s safety and our COVID-19 response, as distrust can discourage the immigrant community from accessing critical services, such as driver’s licenses, contact tracing, and vaccines.
The proposed law clarifies that an individual’s personal and private information cannot be shared with outside entities for the purpose of civil immigration enforcement purposes and is an effort to restore this critical trust. No Coloradan should have to fear that information they provide to the state will be used against them.
If you are interested in speaking with one of the event participants or would like additional information on the CORA request mentioned, please email Ian Pham.
Additionally, below please find select quotes from today’s press conference on the importance of restoring community trust through this upcoming data privacy legislation:
State Senator Julie Gonzales (D-Denver):
“Trust between the community and our state has been broken. It’s been destroyed by ICE’s wrongdoings. And it’s up to us, in the state of Colorado, within our state government, to restore that trust through this bill. So I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to work, throughout the past year, with the agencies, the community, and the governor, to pass a guidance on behalf of the governor. Now, my colleague Representative Serena Gonzales-Guttierez and I are going to present a new bill to concretize that guidance that to restore trust and protect the privacy of the information that Coloradans have given to our state government.”
State Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez (D-Denver):
“Rebuilding trust right now is incredibly important, not only in the larger picture, but even more now as the distribution of vaccines has been underway. We continue to see disparities of who is actually getting the vaccine. I think we’ve all seen the reports, and once again immigrant communities are amongst the lowest rates of receiving the vaccine along with people of color and low income communities. I firmly believe that immigrant communities should have easy access to the vaccine just like anyone else. And the government, the state of Colorado should be working to regain the trust of members of our community that are far too often left behind…This bill will provide protections for Coloradans so that trust will be rebuilt in our communities.”
Siena Mann, CIRC Campaign Manager: The need for this legislation could not be more urgent. “The 150,000 Coloradans who have obtained a driver’s license or ID card since the passage of SB-251 complied with the rigorous process laid out by the law, sharing their information with the state government in good faith. For some, their information was then weaponized against them and used for the purpose of immigration enforcement, upending their safety, their livelihoods, by this unsanctioned cooperation between DMV administrators and ICE, and putting them at risk of being separated from their family.”
Yesenia Beascochea, Lead Community Organizer with the Center for Health Progress and a leading member of the I Drive coalition:
“During this pandemic, it’s more evident than ever that people do not have trust in the system because of the fear of services accessing their information. With the vaccine available, how many people are going to be willing to go in the vaccine, if this bill doesn’t pass? How many people are going to go and access support for their children at the schools, if this bill doesn’t pass? How many people are not going to access food? I work directly with food banks here locally in Pueblo. And I’ve seen people, especially the immigrant community, not willing to go to the food banks because they’re in fear of the information being shared with immigration.”
Maria Albañil-Rangel, Immigrant Advocacy Coordinator with Tri-County Health Network:
The immigrant community is hesitant to access much needed services and this is detrimental to the well being of their families. People are scared and decide to forego public benefits that they are eligible for. In several instances, people are afraid of reaching out and accessing mental health services, enrolling their children in daycare or even giving their information to food bank centers. There is always the question of – Who is going to have my information? What will happen if I share my information? This is causing catastrophic effects on the immigrant community especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. No one should be in fear of accessing much needed services. There needs to be legislation to protect the rights and well being of all Coloradans. We must build trust with our community.
Arash Jahanian, Director of Policy and Civil Rights Litigation at the Meyer Law Office: “This bill is about community safety and wellbeing. It puts processes in place to ensure that Coloradans’ personal information is being used to enhance that safety and wellbeing rather than to harm the community. When Coloradans’ entrust the government with their personal information, they have expectations that the information will be safeguarded. That expectation of privacy stems from the state and federal constitutions. They do not expect, nor do they deserve, that state officials will take that information and turn it over to ICE.”
“The bill sends a clear message to the community: state officials are here to serve you with driver’s licenses, vaccines, and other services. It makes sure that the members of our immigrant community do not retreat into the shadows, and instead remain full participants in our society, making the Colorado community stronger as a whole.”
Mercedes Garcia, former CIRC Board Member:
“I haven’t been able to get a license, because I’m afraid. How am I going to get a Colorado ID, when that’s my worst fear, that the DMV would have my information and share it with ICE? So many things have happened to me because I haven’t had a license. When my [citizen] daughter was younger, she couldn’t get a Colorado ID, because I don’t have one. We had to wait until my oldest daughter turned eighteen for her to be able to get one. This isn’t right. We help support this country, and we’re constantly persecuted by ICE. Our only crime is living here, undocumented.”
I Drive Colorado is a coalition of more than 20 pro-immigrant organizations from across the state of Colorado invested in implementing and improving the SB251 program, which encourages all Coloradans, regardless of status, to obtain a driver’s license.
The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) is a statewide, membership-based coalition of immigrant, faith, labor, youth, community, business and ally organizations founded in 2002 to improve the lives of immigrants and refugees by making Colorado a more welcoming, immigrant-friendly state.