Remarks by Council Member Bruce Baker to the Westminster City Council on December 12, 2016, 7:30pm
I want to take this opportunity to convey to my colleagues and to the Public at large of my extreme opposition to our procedures concerning Westminster Police interactions and contacts with people that potentially could be unlawfully present in the United States. I see our published procedures as telling our police to intentionally ignore Federal Law.
How the city deals with enforcement of Federal Law is not a new issue. I had always thought the city continuously supports and enforces Federal law. I remember one of the first issues told to city council after my election was how the city could not use federal grant money for a project we had built because we had not followed the prevailing wage requirements. So we gave the money back. Just recently, our council has been informed that we have mistakenly allowed non-authorized groups to be housed in facilities that in part were purchased with Federal money, so we are in the process of removing those groups from those facilities. The City follows, obeys, and supports Federal law. If we make a mistake, we correct the mistake and follow Federal law.
And moreover, every member of this council has taken an oath to uphold Westminster ordinances, Colorado law and Federal law. We should have no tolerance for any proposal that does not to support and enforce any of our laws and ordinances. So with that said, let us look at the specific procedures that Westminster police use to interact with and contact persons that are potentially unlawfully residing in the US.
The published procedure of the Westminster Police Department in regards to any enforcement action on federal immigration laws, is stated in the section on our city website titled “Building a welcoming community in Westminster, Colorado”. I find the statement vague and that it can be interpreted in dramatically different ways. My reading of the statement leads me to believe that this City Council is coercing our police to be dishonest and to selectively enforce of our laws. I feel the City’s misleading but cleverly crafted statement will corrupt our police department and direct them to openly and blatantly ignore federal law. The procedures, as written, transform the safeguards of the 14th amendment to the US Constitution, specifically the equal protection of the law, into worthless words.
This is not a trivial matter. To openly and blatantly ignore federal law is unconscionable. This defiant and bragged about refusal to obey Federal law should be as abhorrent to us as was the defiance of some Southern governors when they refused to enforce Federal civil rights laws. Do we really want to be like Orval Faubus when he defied Federal law and kept 9 black students from attending Little Rock Public High School? Are we to be George Wallace as he blocked the door to the University of Alabama to black students? Absolutely not! This council has far higher integrity and ethics than to sink to the level of arrogance and self-righteousness of George Wallace.
And yet here Westminster is, arrogantly implying that we will not enforce Federal Law. In the case of Governor Faubus, President Eisenhower took the military might and police power of the Arkansas National Guard away from Governor Faubus and adding the 101st Airborne Division reminded everyone in Arkansas to do their duty and obey Federal law. President Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard to have Governor Wallace comply with Federal law and to remind everyone in Alabama of their duty. Haven’t we learned from American History? Have we become so sophisticated and clever that we will not remember our own American History?
This is not the first time I have spoken with my colleagues about Westminster’s response to immigration situations brought to our attention. After an April 18, 2016 study session in which Richard Garcia candidly admitted that the Providers Advancing School Outcomes (PASO) aided and assisted people that they knew were unlawfully present in the United States, I shared my concerns with my colleagues and submitted formal complaints to appropriate authorities. Not only did PASO admit to violating Federal immigration law but they are also violating state daycare laws. Unfortunately my colleagues chose to give financial aid to the group that was openly and admittedly breaking the law. Perhaps that is why I want to hear our city clearly say we uphold Federal law.
Now, after the November elections this issue of non-enforcement of Federal immigration law has flared red hot. Some of our sister cities in the Denver Metro Area have declared their intentions to ignore Federal law. I assume these cities made these declarations because, with a new President, they are no longer confident that the Federal government will continue to enforce immigration law in a corrupt manner. They fear that Federal immigration law might be fairly and equitably enforced. Inflammatory statements by our sister cities are meant to push the Federal Government into continuing the dishonest law enforcement that has endured for years.
A very distasteful aspect of the situation is that the advocates for selective enforcement of the Federal immigration laws cloak themselves in disguise of caring and compassion. While some of those advocates are well meaning, most have talked themselves into thinking they are aiding poor, desperate immigrants. The reality is that they are only facilitating the exploitation of people. Immigrants today, and especially undocumented immigrants along with our left-behind native-born are the underclass of our Society that is exploited by the wealthy.
Immigrants today play the same role in Society as did blacks in the Jim Crow South. They provide an abundance of willing labor. That abundance lowers wages. More people needing a place to live drives up the cost of housing. Has this council forgotten the appeal we heard from the WOW group of Westminster? Remember the heartbreaking story of the woman with the low paid job that could not cover the rent increases so she moved to a marginally safe apartment building where she was raped? Remember the other speakers recounting how they are crushed by low wages and exploding rents? These are realities that cause envy and strife between sub-groups of Americans. People that are exploited in our society inflame in themselves and in others a feeling of injury and unjust treatment. These are forces that rip apart the fabric of our Society.
Just like the wealthy Jim Crow elite employed useful idiots to advance their exploitation of blacks and disadvantaged whites in the South, today’s wealthy elite have useful idiots to advance their exploitation of immigrants, documented and undocumented and of native born people. Just like the bigots and race-baiters in the South fanned the flames of hate and justified their refusal to follow Federal laws then, the exploiters of today use the same tactics of name calling and fear to silence anyone that advocates for fairly and honestly following Federal Law.
In this atmosphere of worry, on November 29, 2016 I was sent an email by Sara Flores in which she expressed her fears. I felt she was very upset and worried. I formed that impression by the fact she was sending multiple copies of the same email and expressed concern the message was not reaching all Council members. I responded before the day ended and sent copies of both her original message and my reply to all my colleagues. Like Ms Flores, I had hoped the email exchanges would begin a conversation. Ms Flores and my hopes were in vain. Either none of the messages reached their intended recipients or my colleagues declined to engage in conversation with me.
On December 2nd council members were sent the current procedures on actions by police related to legal status of persons contacted by police.
At Council’s December 5th Study session, we reviewed those procedures. It turned out they merely procedures, they not an official policy. It seems these procedures have no author. This is just what police procedure is. To me this is the same unaccountable police procedures that blacks fear when they recount their experiences with the unwritten crime of “Driving while black”.
On December 6th, in a spirit of collaboration, I sent my colleagues an appeal to explicitly clarify our statement because I felt it could be interpreted in dramatically different ways. To clear up any misinterpretation I suggested adding this wording: "However, in no way should Westminster Police continuing operating procedures be interpreted to imply non-cooperation with Federal authorities. Westminster Police have always and will continue to contact Federal authorities when any discovery of facts involves violations of Federal law and will assist Federal authorities whenever requested to do so." City staff attempted to weave this clarification into our statement. My colleagues chose to reject all efforts to clarify the statement and chose instead what I consider to be a deceptive and misleading statement which implies Westminster will not enforce Federal law.
On December 7th, I sent an appeal to my colleagues to reconsider their choice. But alas, I have not heard a response from any of my colleagues.
For me, the most immediate and destructive result of our seeming refusal to enforce Federal Law is the transformation of our police department. I fear our police department is being transformed from trustworthy, reliable, impartial enforcers of the law into a political creature. They are being transformed into a group that does what their political boss tell them. Sort of like the Alabama State Troopers in 1965 on Bloody Sunday. Or like the police thugs during Tammany Hall’s rule of New York City. And I don’t like that. It is absolutely wrong. I am fully aware that other departments in the Denver Metro Area have already suffered this transformation, but I want Westminster police to be something more than enforcers of whatever whim the politicians of Westminster decree.
At many times during my term on Council I have involved my colleagues in conversations about police. I have repeatedly expressed my concern that there is a growing gap between law enforcement and the public. This is not something caused at our local level, but it is a societal problem that involves everyone. To openly and brazenly imply that Westminster police will not enforce Federal law breeds disrespect for ALL laws. Why would anyone respect any law they don’t like when they see the law routinely ignored and abused by those in power? Why would anyone trust police to be honest and fair when they know that police selectively enforce laws to serve the whims and prejudices of their bosses?
Police are a Foundational institution of our Society. We must always be on guard for the corruption of law enforcement. This is not a new observation. The necessity of honest law enforcement is why the United States has a long history of elected sheriffs. By having the chief law enforcement officer accountable the voters, the importance of having law enforcement that is trustworthy, reliable and that fairly enforces our law, is emphasized.
Federal laws are every bit our laws as any Colorado laws or Westminster ordinances. We should be eager and happy to obey them. And if we don’t want those laws we have the power to elect new legislators to change those laws. And if we don’t like the guarantees and limits the US Constitution sets, we can change those too. Slavery was ended by a Constitutional amendment. Blacks and women were empowered to vote by amendment. A person’s right to sell alcohol was denied by an amendment.
The People, through our representatives, write our laws. Once passed, we must fairly and equitably enforce those laws. Individuals that violate our laws must be held accountable for their conduct. To allow some violations of law to be ignored while other violations are enforced is a recipe for chaos. For too many years the dishonest enforcement of immigration law has plagued our country. Westminster must not assist in letting that plague continue. Westminster should never intentionally ignore Federal law.
Have I fully conveyed my disgust with what I see as a policy that ignores Federal Law? I don’t think so.
So here is an American story about how a large, competent, necessary organization betrayed their most cherished principles.
On March 16, 1968 elements of the 23rd infantry Division (Americal) killed 128 communist insurgents in a bloody day-long battle, near Quang Ngai City. That was the official story in the Stars and Stripes and all the after actions reports. The entire military hierarchy agreed on the facts of the battle.
However that what not what all of the soldiers in the battle experienced. Indeed, helicopter pilot Warrant Officer Thompson saw such blatant wrongdoing he landed his helicopter and argued with soldiers on the ground, while his door gunner aimed a machinegun at their brother Americans. Thompson reported what he saw to appropriate authorities. But they seemed not care. Other soldiers filed formal complaints. Investigations were conducted, even one by a star destined young, Major Colin Powell, but the most investigations could add was the inadvertent deaths of 22 civilians.
Other soldiers wrote letters imploring commanders to investigate, but nothing happened. A different soldier wrote letters to 30 members of Congress, but most Congressmen and Senators ignored the letters. The New York Times and Washington Post were uninterested in the story. Life magazine, Look magazine and Newsweek, they didn’t want the story either. Richard Strout of the Christian Science Monitor observed that American press self-censorship thwarted investigation of the incident.
But the self-censorship was much deeper than just the press or Congress. The American military was twisted from high and low: a couple of generals, several commanders, the intelligence officer, the military photographer, the medic. How did pilot Thompson see the wrongdoing on the battlefield but the Battalion commander and the Brigade commander in a different helicopters above the same battlefield could not?
The point of my story is that we know this event as the My Lai Massacre and that the US Military, the finest military in world history, betrayed itself that day. The roots of that betrayal started well before March 16, 1968. It started when individuals began to ignore Federal law. They had good reasons. After March 16 many individual could not bring themselves to uphold the oaths they had sworn. They had good reasons. And none of those good reasons held true. Those good reasons were just self-deception.
Now our situation is nowhere near as dreadful as was My Lai, but our way forward is the same as was My Lai. We must follow the Federal law. The good reasons that people extend to not follow the law are deceptions and self-delusions.
If we truly support our police, ourselves and our Society, as leaders of Westminster we must never coerce our police, through the use of vague and ambiguous wording, to engage in selective, sub-standard, willfully ignorant enforcement of our laws.
Please, let us be crystal clear in our direction to our police with our city policies. If this council wants our police to selectively enforce Federal law, then I challenge this council to openly and transparently say so by taking responsibility and authorship of such a policy. Make this published “procedure” of Westminster Police a city policy. I challenge this council to precisely tell the residents of Westminster and the Public at Large how our police will operate in a clear, unambiguous and detailed policy.
Republican Candidate for House District 35