ACLU Vs. Sheriff Fight Continues

Rick Langenberg

In an 11th-hour move that didn’t offer any real surprises, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has filed an appeal regarding a District Court decision that favored Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell and his enforcement of federal immigration law.

This case has been ongoing for several years, and shows no signs of ending anytime soon. The ACLU filed a recent appeal with the Court of Appeals.

At issue is a decision made by Judge Scott Sells in February that clearly endorsed the sheriff’s right to pursue a program with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), known as a 287(g) agreement. Sells’ decision closely paralleled an earlier verdict he made in this case.

The ACLU objects to the sheriff department’s ability to enable deputies to carry out immigration-related duties while assigned to the jail.  In essence, they act as immigration agents under the 2879(g) agreement. Under this agreement, they are empowered to hold suspected illegal immigrant prisoners beyond their normal release, in case they need to be picked up by federal agents.

This agreement only pertains to inmates at the jail. It doesn’t give Teller law enforcement authorities the right to pursue illegal immigration investigations outside the jail.

The Teller County jail is one of two ICE-related facilities in the state.

County officials, though, are optimistic that this appeal won’t be successful. In an article in the (Colorado Springs Gazette, county attorney Paul Holcomb referred to Sells’ decision as quite sound and reasonable.

“The agreement is a jail enforcement model, so the authorized functions all take place in the jail and are designed to enhance public safety b reducing the number of criminal noncitizens offenders released back into the community,” said Holcomb, according to The Gazette newspaper.

This legal tug of war between the ACLU and the Teller sheriff has been ongoing for years.

The issue has even been debated by state lawmakers, with a new legislative bill to no  longer permit law enforcement agencies to work with ICE pertaining to immigration matters. It is not quite clear if this would impact the lawsuit.