The ACLU of Colorado has sued Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell, alleging his office is working with federal immigration officers to arrest and detain immigrants in violation of state law. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of six Teller County residents and taxpayers, and argues that Mikesell is “diverting their tax money from its intended purpose of enforcing Colorado law in order to fund his unlawful plan to enforce federal immigration law.”
The suit focuses on Mikesell’s 287(g) agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, signed in January, which pays for three deputies to attend a four-week training course in South Carolina, thereby allowing them to make immigration arrests and exercise other immigration enforcement powers. The Teller County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) would be responsible for the ongoing costs of the program.
On Thursday, the Indy asked the sheriff’s office for reaction to the suit, which asks for an injunction to stop the Teller County 287(g) program; the office had not responded by Friday afternoon.
The ACLU argues the agreement violates the Colorado Constitution, which requires detainees be released after they post bail or resolve their criminal cases, even when federal immigration authorities suspect the individuals may be removable for civil immigration violations. In an ACLU class action lawsuit against the El Paso County Sheriff last year, the court ruled that the sheriff’s practice of holding prisoners past their release date at ICE’s request constituted an unconstitutional warrantless arrest.
The organization also claims the agreement violates a law enacted by Gov. Jared Polis in May that prohibits local law enforcement agencies from complying with ICE’s request that local law enforcement agencies keep detainees in custody for up to 48 hours after their scheduled release dates so that ICE may detain the individuals.
“Relying on his 287(g) agreement, Sheriff Mikesell now plans to do exactly what Colorado law expressly forbids: hold prisoners past their release date if they are suspected of immigration violations,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “An agreement with ICE cannot legally authorize a Colorado peace officer to violate Colorado law.”
This is the second time the ACLU of Colorado has sued the Teller County sheriff, though unlike the previous lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of a detained individual, it includes several Teller County residents.