ACLU Appeals Colorado Judge Ruling that Allows Jail to Identify, Hold Prisoners for ICE Immigration Detention

By Zainab Antepli 

DENVER, CO – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado is appealing a judge’s ruling that allows the Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell to continue to identify and hold people for ICE immigration detention in the county jail, according to a story in the Denver Post by Saja Hindi.

Hindi wrote the agreement is a program that gives “state and local law enforcement” jurisdiction to engage with the federal government “which trains and allows deputies to enforce federal immigration laws.”

Essentially, within the Teller County jail, Hindi said this program allows deputies to “identify inmates as immigrants who are potentially violating civil immigration law” which would then permit these deputies to “hold them until Immigration and Customs Enforcement picks them up for immigration detention.”

The ACLU, however, argues that this program grants authority to the sheriff which is, as Hindi notes, “a violation of the Colorado Constitution” because “inmates are held beyond their release date without a signed judge’s order.”

The ACLU cites, as noted by Hindi, “a 2019 state law that limits cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE.”

However, the judge ruled in favor of Teller County by citing that “the sheriff’s deputies are acting as ‘de facto federal officers’ when performing those functions,” according to the Post story.

Hindi writes the ACLU’s appeal extended the case’s timeline and the subsequent ruling at the end “is expected to apply statewide.”

The ACLU drafted a statement which Hindi cites as stating, “‘Under Colorado law, when an inmate posts bond, completes their sentence or otherwise resolves their criminal case, the jail must release them. The sheriff’s 287(g) program unlawfully disrupts this required release.’”

ACLU staff attorney Annie Kurtz was quoted, “not on the basis of any judicial warrant, not on the basis of any kind of belief they committed some new crime that should mean they stay in jail under state law, but just because there’s some ICE administrative documents saying that the person might be removable from the United States.”

Upon these determinations, Hindi wrote the basis of the ACLU’s argument for the appeal lies in the fact that the program only allows “local police to conduct immigration enforcement ‘to the extent consistent with state and local law’” which negates the claim that the practice is authorized by federal or state law.

Sheriff Mikesell declined Hindi’s request for a comment and claimed “‘the law is on our side’” to The Denver Post, signaling his intention to fight the appeal.

Hindi writes Sheriff Mikesell rebutted the ACLU appeal by claiming “the program doesn’t violate state law because the inmates aren’t being held on ICE detainer requests, rather on federal immigration arrest warrants.”

Hindi quoted a study by the ACLU and the University of North Carolina School of Law which found “287(g) programs at least tolerate racial profiling and create harm to their communities” and “Kurtz said they have no place in Colorado.”

Sheriff Mikesell has been quoted as insisting that these findings are “‘a load of hogwash’” and Hindi writes the sheriff maintained  no profiling was occurring in Teller County and “inmates are asked the same questions they would normally be asked when booked into any jail or prison.”

About The Author

Zainab is a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, studying Political Science and Global Studies (with an emphasis in Peace and Conflict Studies in the Americas) along with a minor in Spanish. She is set to graduate May 2023. Zainab is from North Carolina and her parents are Turkish. She is intended pre-law and wants to go to law school after a two gap years to gain more work experience. She has helped her family from Turkey gain political asylum and residency due to the dictatorial regime in Turkey, therefore, she is passionate about standing firm against injustice. Zainab is fluent in: English, Spanish, and Turkish.

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