In seeking to ensure it “will not sacrifice” its “values or bend to a broken immigration system”, the Denver City Council voted on Monday to approve major reforms on Class I and II offenses.
These include crimes such as public defecation, panhandling [American term for street begging] and camping out on the sidewalk. In reforming the sentencing, penalties for these transgressions would become more lenient.
Before the ordinance was passed, all violations of Denver municipal code were punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $999. KUSA reported that city chiefs and immigrant rights advocates argued the changes would protect Denver’s immigrant community from facing dire consequences.
Police in Denver have refused to enforce federal immigration laws.
“Many times it becomes a deportable offense if you’ve been convicted of even a minor ordinance violation that’s punishable by a year in jail,” Mark Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, said.
The ordinance creates new sentencing categories that carry much more lenient penalties. Most municipal offenses (Class I) carry a maximum of 300 days in jail and up to a $999 fine. Class 2 offenses, however, have no fine and are considered “quality of life” offenses.
Class 2 offenses typically yield no fine and carry a maximum 60-day jail sentence. The crimes include those which mainly impact the homeless and migrants:
Sitting or lying in the public right-of-way
Unauthorized camping on public or private property prohibited
Urinating or defecating in public
Curfews and closures
Storage and loading
Solicitation on or near street or highway
“Usually the defendants are very poverty stricken, maybe even homeless,” Mark Silverstein said, even though the poverty stricken and migrants are free to use public restrooms free of charge.
In fact, many private businesses in Denver encourage opening their facilities to such people.
Denver ranks among the 20 US metro areas with the largest numbers of people living in the country illegally, according to an analysis released in February this year by the Pew Research Center.
The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area was home to an estimated 130 000 unauthorized immigrants, ranking number 17, with 55 000 living in Denver alone, according to the report.
The Pew study found that most of the 11.1 million people living in the United States illegally are concentrated in metropolitan statistical areas, with the largest populations in New York, Los Angeles and Houston. In all, 61 percent live in just 20 US metro areas, including Denver.
In Denver, those living in the city illegally made up 37 percent of all foreign-born residents, the Pew Study found. That percentage was higher-than-average for the entire United States where one in four foreign-born residents is there illegally.
Sanitation is the bedrock of public health. The lack of wastewater treatment and the practice of using open ditches to carry untreated sewage is widespread in Mexico and the rest of Latin America (Pan American Health Organization, 1990b; Cech and Essman, 1992).
Thirty-eight percent of South Asia defecates in the open, and India is responsible for a full 30 percent, despite the government’s toilet-building frenzy.
“India spends on the hardware, on big subsidies to build toilets, but many of them are never used,” said development expert Robert Chambers. Even out of 9.5 million toilets in rural India built in the first year of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (2014-15), only 46 percent were being used, according to NSSO data.
Around 630 million Indians still defecate in the open and it is abundantly clear that open defecation cannot be ended only by providing toilets.