DENVER - A first-year state representative has introduced legislation that could cause legal trouble for other elected leaders in Colorado.
Dave Williams, a Republican from Colorado Springs, authored the proposed Colorado Politician Accountability Act, which is before the House State Judiciary, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
The proposed bill is nicknamed the Sanctuary City Bill because it relates to cities within the state -- Denver and Boulder among others, Williams said -- that do not cooperate with federal authorities in apprehending illegal immigrants.
In those cities, the bill would suspend the Governmental Immunity Act that protects elected leaders and law-enforcement officers from civil lawsuits, allowing victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants to seek compensation for physical injury or property damage.
"What I'm saying is that crimes are being committed by illegals who should already be in custody and in some cases are repeat offenders," Williams said. "And sanctuary cities should be cooperating with the federal government to locate and apprehend these illegals. This bill gives victims an avenue to seek justice."
Under the bill, victims who sue could collect between $350,000 and nearly $2 million in damages from elected officials and county sheriffs.
"The money would come not from the general fund but from the pockets of individual politicians," Williams said.
Motivation for crafting the bill, he said, came from three recent cases in the Denver area and the July 2015 case of Kate Steinle in San Francisco.
Steinle, 31, was shot to death by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times and used a gun stolen from the vehicle of a federal officer.
Her family sued several entities, including federal officials, the city and county of San Francisco and the former county sheriff, seeking unspecified damages.
The lawsuit is pending and a murder trial for the shooter will begin later this month.
Williams said his bill has little chance of passage in the Democrat-controlled state legislature but he has supporters in the Senate ready to introduce a similar bill if necessary.
Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, said his party is ready for a lively debate on the issue.
"There's a question about its constitutionality," he said. "Holding elected officials and our law enforcement to upholding federal law is something we just don't do here in Colorado. And we're not even sure that's legal to do."
Melton said if passed into law, the bill would discourage qualified people from seeking public service.
The committee will hold its first discussion on the bill Feb. 22 but Williams hinted about an upcoming surprise.
"We're going to be rolling out a major announcement on Monday, about other interested parties from around the country who want to join in the fight to stop sanctuary cities and lawless politicians," he said.
Congress has tried, unsuccessfully, to pass legislation that would lengthen prison sentences of deported immigrants.
Williams said he believes he is the first lawmaker in any state to propose a bill holding elected officials responsible for the crimes of immigrants.