A Small but Significant Reform that Could Have Put the Cap Back on Misdemeanor Sentencing for Colorado’s Noncitizens

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Mark Taylor Feero[*]

A power struggle between the states and the federal government has reached a heightened tension in the past year with the United States even filing a lawsuit against the State of California. This heightened tension has been brought on by the conflict between the current administration’s intensified efforts at deporting removable noncitizens and local law enforcement agencies that have instituted various policies to limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agents, more commonly known as “sanctuary cities” or “sanctuary states.” The debate over the permissibility of these policies has largely focused on the intersection between the supremacy of federal immigration law to preempt state laws that “create an obstacle to the full purposes and objectives of Congress” and the federal government’s inability to commandeer state officers to carry out federal commands. Importantly, the states maintain a key power free from potential federal interference, which comes in the form of the power to establish state criminal laws and appropriate sentencing outside of the immigration context. Federal immigration authorities frequently depend on the elements of these state criminal laws and their sentences to determine whether a specific conviction qualifies as a deportable offense.

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