DENVER – State District Court Judge Eric Bentley has ordered El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder to immediately stop relying on ICE immigration detainers or ICE administrative warrants as grounds for refusing to release ACLU of Colorado plaintiffs from custody when they post bond, complete their sentences, or otherwise resolve their criminal cases.
ACLU of Colorado filed a class action lawsuit on February 27 alleging that Sheriff Elder had unlawfully imprisoned dozens of individuals for days, weeks, and even months without legal authority, solely on the ground that ICE suspected that they were subject to deportation for civil immigration violations.
At a hearing held yesterday morning, ACLU attorneys requested a preliminary injunction to stop the practice, arguing that the Sheriff’s policy violated Colorado law and that the prisoners held by Sheriff Elder would suffer irreparable harm by continuing to forfeit their liberty while the case proceeded. In a ruling issued late last night, Judge Bentley granted the injunction.
ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein issued the following statement:
“Judge Bentley’s ruling confirmed that Colorado sheriffs have no legal authority to enforce federal immigration law and that when individuals have posted bond or resolved their criminal case, Colorado law requires that they be released.
“Colorado law authorizes sheriffs to deprive someone of their liberty only when there is probable cause of a crime, not for suspected civil violations of federal immigration law. As the Judge’s ruling confirms, when sheriffs hold an individual for ICE for any amount of time past their release date, they make a new arrest for which they have no legal authority under Colorado law.
“Federal immigration authorities are attempting to co-opt sheriffs’ limited resources for their aggressive deportation agenda, but they cannot do so at the expense of individual liberties or Colorado law. When they do, the ACLU will fight them at every turn.
“Colorado sheriffs swear an oath to the Constitution, not to ICE.”
The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.