Colorado Judge Rules Local Sheriffs Can’t Detain People For ICE

A Colorado District Judge has ruled it is unconstitutional to detain inmates purely on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Similar cases have been argued throughout our region.

Colorado is now one of several states in the country to issue a ruling against the practice of honoring so-called “detainer” requests. That’s when U.S. immigration authorities ask a local sheriff to incarcerate someone if there’s a question about their immigration status.

The ACLU of Colorado brought a class-action lawsuit against the El Paso County Sheriff for detaining people this way. 

“We're essentially asking police and sheriffs to comply with the rule of law,” said ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein.

The district court judge agreed in a ruling that says detaining people simply for their immigration status violates Colorado state law as well as the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

UC Boulder law professor Violeta Chapin said most of the sheriffs in Colorado had stopped doing this a long time ago. Colorado’s El Paso and Teller Counties had been the holdouts.

“This opinion has made it clear that they do not have that authority either under Colorado law or under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” said Chapin.

According to Chapin, this is a big case for Colorado, because it’s the first time the courts have found that this practice constitutes a warrantless arrest.  Chapin added that it may influence other states whose local sheriffs continue to hold immigrants past their release date.

In a written statement, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said they have not housed immigration detainees since the court issued a temporary injunction on the practice back in March, but they plan to appeal this recent ruling.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.