Colorado Rights Blog


  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at

  • 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. 

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:

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