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Feds pay $50k settlement to ACLU Client

Case continues against Jeffco sheriff for illegally imprisoning Colorado resident suspected of immigration violations

For Immediate Release
Contact: Rosemary Harris Lytle, Communications Director, 303.777.5482, ext. 111 (o) 719.233.0243 (c)
Mark Silverstein, Legal Director, 303.777.5482, ext. 114 (o)

As partial settlement of a federal-court lawsuit filed last year, the United States will pay $50,000 to ACLU client Luis Quezada, who spent 47 days illegally imprisoned in the Jefferson County Jail in 2009 simply because federal immigration authorities wanted to investigate whether he was violating immigration laws. Mr. Quezada’s claims against Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink are still pending.

“This settlement is a victory for the Constitution and the rule of law,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “It sends a clear message that law enforcement officers must follow the law while enforcing the law. All persons in this country — including persons suspected or accused of immigration violations – have the right to due process of law and the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and arbitrary imprisonment.”

The lawsuit asserts that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sent an Immigration Detainer to the Jefferson County Jail while Mr. Quezada was held on a traffic charge. The detainer asked the jail to hold Mr. Quezada an additional 48 hours after his traffic charge was resolved, so that ICE could determine whether to take him into custody and file an immigration charge seeking to remove him from the country.

ICE did not collect Mr. Quezada from the jail within 48 hours, and the jail did not release him at the end of that period. Instead, the ACLU’s client languished in the Jefferson County jail for an additional 47 days. During that time, there were no immigration charges or any other charges pending against Mr. Quezada, nor was there a warrant or any other legal authority authorizing Mr. Quezada’s imprisonment, or any hearing to determine whether his imprisonment was lawful.

After 47 days, ICE finally took action. ICE issued an immigration arrest warrant, picked Mr. Quezada up from the jail, and issued a notice that formally began an immigration proceeding. On the same day ICE picked him up from the jail, ICE released Mr. Quezada on bond, confirming that ICE does not regard him as a flight risk or a danger to the community. Mr. Quezada remains free on bond while he is defends himself in immigration court.

The ACLU’s lawsuit, filed in April 2010, originally named only Sheriff Mink as a defendant. In response, Mink pointed the finger at ICE, arguing that he held Mr. Quezada at the request of the federal government. ACLU lawyers then brought the United States into the lawsuit by filing a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The settlement announced today resolves only that portion of the lawsuit.
“While the United States has agreed to a settlement, we continue to press the case against Sheriff Mink and the Jefferson County Jail,” said Dan Williams, of Faegre & Benson, who is litigating the case as an ACLU Cooperating Attorney. “Our position, and the position of the United States in this case, is that Sheriff Mink was obligated to release Mr. Quezada no later than the date when the 48-hour detainer expired. Sheriff Mink cannot escape responsibility for imprisoning our client for 47 days without legal authority.”

The Quezada suit is one of a growing number of cases against local, state, and federal agencies involving immigration detainers. “Immigration detainer procedures disregard fundamental principles and requirements that protect everyone – citizens and noncitizens alike – from being jailed without sufficient justification,” said Omar Jadwat, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who is co-counseling the case. “This settlement is an important step towards forcing ICE to re-examine its detainer practices and is a reminder to state and local police to approach ICE programs like Secure Communities, which rely on detainers, with the utmost caution.”

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