Colorado Rights Blog


  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.

Colorado Sheriff to Pay $30K to Woman Held on Immigration Detainer


DENVER – Arapahoe County has agreed to pay $30,000 to Claudia Valdez, a domestic violence victim who called police for help, was arrested herself, and then held in the Arapahoe County Jail at the request of federal immigration authorities for three days after a judge had ordered her release.

Valdez called police in July 2012, when a domestic dispute with her husband turned physical.  When law enforcement arrived on the scene, they arrested Valdez and took her to jail.  After her husband admitted that he had been the aggressor, a judge ordered Valdez’s release.  Rather than release Valdez, the Arapahoe County Sherriff’s Office held her for three additional days in compliance with a detainer request from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The ACLU of Colorado argued in a letter sent in April to all Colorado sheriffs that they act without legal authority, and face legal liability, if they rely on ICE detainer requests as a basis to hold prisoners who would otherwise be released.

“When ICE asks a sheriff to hold a prisoner, the agency is essentially asking the sheriff to make a new arrest.   And Colorado law just does not provide authority to sheriffs to make that arrest,” said Mark Silverstein, Legal Director for the ACLU of Colorado.

“Ms. Valdez’s experience underscores the damage to public safety and community trust that results when victims of crime fear that any contact with law enforcement will be the first step in a seamless transfer to jail and then to immigration proceedings,” said ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Rebecca Wallace.

Following the ACLU letter, more than two dozen sheriffs around the state have changed their policies and announced that they will stop honoring ICE detainer requests.

“The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office and the county commissioners should be commended for stepping up and doing the right thing in this case,” said Silverstein. “Within a few weeks of receiving our draft complaint, they promptly agreed to an out-of-court settlement, and they have also stopped holding people on ICE detainers.”

Valdez has lived in Colorado for 15 years, has three U.S. citizen children and no criminal record, yet she faces deportation proceedings as a result of her arrest and detention in 2012.

“ICE would have the public believe that it only targets serious criminals for deportation,” said Hans Meyer, an ACLU cooperating attorney in the case who is also representing Ms. Valdez in immigration court.  “The disturbing reality is that ICE uses its immigration detainer regime to perpetuate a deportation dragnet that targets upstanding people like Claudia Valdez, a law abiding mother of three and long-time resident of Colorado who came into contact with the police only because she needed help.  ICE needs to change its practices to match its public rhetoric.”

The ACLU of Colorado plans to follow up next week with Colorado sheriffs who have not yet confirmed that they will stop holding prisoners on the basis of ICE detainers.


Read the draft complaint sent to the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office prior to settlement negotiations:

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

For information on this case, visit the case page at:

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

For a map showing which Colorado counties have stopped honoring ICE detainers:

Return to News