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All Colorado Jails Now Reject Federal Immigration Detainers

September 18, 2014

DENVER – All of Colorado’s county jails have now confirmed to the ACLU of Colorado that they no longer honor detainer requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE routinely issues detainer requests, or “ICE holds,” to local jails.  They ask sheriffs to continue holding a person in jail for up to five days past the time when the person would otherwise be released, so that ICE can decide whether to take that person into federal custody for a possible immigration violation.

Between October 2011 and August 2013, ICE issued over 8,700 detainer requests to Colorado jails.

Last April, the ACLU of Colorado wrote to every sheriff in the state explaining that the additional detention amounts to a new arrest, which Colorado sheriffs lack the authority under Colorado law to make.

Several sheriffs responded within days to the ACLU letter by announcing that they would no longer honor the holds.  Over the following months, the ACLU of Colorado advocated through letters and phone calls to the remaining sheriffs to convince them to change their policies and stop imprisoning persons on the basis of ICE detainers.

According to the ACLU, Colorado is now the first state in the country in which all county jailers have individually decided to reject detainer requests from ICE.  (See note below)

“Colorado sheriffs now agree that they have no legal authority to deprive persons of liberty—even for a few days—simply because ICE suspects an immigration violation,” said Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado.

“Nevertheless, some sheriffs are continuing to go out of their way to notify ICE of the upcoming release of a suspected immigration violator, in the hope that ICE will take custody as the person leaves the county jail,”  Silverstein added.  “By doing so, these sheriffs  violate the spirit and intent of last year’s SB 90 repeal, which recognized that when local police get involved in enforcing federal immigration law, they risk undermining the trust between police and the large immigrant populations that they serve.”

In its repeal of SB 90 during the 2013 legislative session, the Colorado legislature lifted requirements of local law enforcement to participate in enforcing federal immigration law in order to “enhance public safety by building trust between immigrant communities and local police” and to “ensure that local resources are focused on public safety issues instead of on immigration issues that are the responsibility of the federal government.”

In June, the ACLU of Colorado successfully negotiated a $30,000 settlement with Arapahoe County on behalf of Claudia Valdez, a woman who called for help in 2012 following a domestic violence incident, was arrested herself, and held for three days in the Arapahoe County Jail after a judge had ordered her release, due to a detainer request from ICE.

[Note: The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is an exception.  Pursuant to Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, ICE has trained certain deputies of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and delegated to them the authority to exercise the powers of federal immigration officers.] 

Additional Resources:

Visit the ACLU of Colorado’s End Immigration Detainers campaign page:

Read the ACLU letter sent to all Colorado sheriffs in April:

Read Claudia’s Story: How a Domestic Violence Victim’s Call for Help Resulted in Three Days in Jail and Deportation Proceedings

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