Teller Sheriff Reloads Legal Guns In Battle Against ACLU

Photo by CR Chambers

Agency vows to support ICE in holding illegal immigrant prisoners

by Trevor Phipps

After weeks of silence, Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell officially addressed the public about the latest American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit, targeting their agency’s stand against illegal immigration.

Last Thursday, the sheriff along with officials from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) held a press conference to discuss round two of the ACLU battle.

 The organization recently filed their second lawsuit against the Teller sheriff’s office due to the law enforcement agency’s participation in the federal 287g program. As a part of the initiative, the sheriff has sent three deputies to train to be able to enforce detainers and holds put on suspects by ICE.

 The ACLU sued the county for the second time, naming six county residents in the lawsuit. The organization claims that by partnering up with ICE, the sheriff’s office is violating both a newly enacted state law and the state’s constitution.

 The ACLU said in the lawsuit that by cooperating with the 287g program, the sheriff’s office is violating the new House Bill 1124 that was passed by the state lawmakers and signed into law by Colorado Governor Jared Polis. The new law states that law enforcement agencies cannot hold individuals based on federal immigration detainers and poses restrictions on law agencies forming partnerships with ICE.

 The ACLU also claims that Teller County is violating the state’s constitution by holding people on ICE detainers. According to the lawsuit, ACLU says that the state constitution requires people to be released if they have posted bail for the crime they were arrested for. This would mean that law enforcement agencies cannot hold a suspect for an ICE detainer if they posted the bond that was initially given to them.

 During the press conference last week, Mikesell took some time to clear up some of the issues that the ACLU has recently claimed. For one, according to the sheriff, ICE has claimed in newspaper articles that the county was spending taxpayer dollars to form the 287g partnership with ICE.

 Mikesell said that this claim being made by the ACLU was false. He reassured the public last week, saying that the county’s participation in the 287g program has not cost any money locally. The sheriff’s office, though, has conceded that there has been taxpayer dollars spent on fighting the ACLU’s two lawsuits.

Under 287g program, several members of the agency would essentially be trained to act as federal immigration officers. They would handle paperwork and investigate claims of illegal immigrant prisoners,, processed at the jail in Divide. Their role would be limited to reviewing inmates at the jail, and not trying to round up illegal immigrants across the county.

ACLU leaders have accused the agency of catering to  President Donald Trump’s policy stand against illegal immigration at the risk of violating prisoners’ civil liberties. They contend that the state has not sanctioned this level of enforcement, and note that Teller County is the only agency in Colorado, to participate in the 287g program.

Sheriff officials, though, say, they want to keep a bad and criminal element out of Teller County. They contend that many of these illegal immigrants are part of dangerous international cartels that are using the area as a secret hiding ground for mega, illegal marijuana grow operations.

Mikesell has cited past experiences as a reason to support ICE.

The sheriff, for example, addressed an incident that took place just before he assumed the role as the county’s head law enforcement officer. According to Mikesell, before he became the county sheriff a decision was made to release someone even though ICE had put a detainer on the individual. After the person was released, they injured someone in a hit and run incident in Colorado Springs.

 During the conference, Mikesell said that the sheriff’s office would continue to work with ICE and hold people if the immigration agency puts a detainer on them in order to prevent future crimes from taking place. The sheriff said that he believes it is important that the agency work with ICE to protect the community and help keep the same suspect from repeating crimes.

 “We will always take a stand for our community,” Mikesell said. “We are here to protect you and not pass the buck every time someone wants to get ugly with us.”