ACLU Sues Teller County Sheriff For Plan To Deputize Officers for ICE

June 27, 2019
Photo: Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell
Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell defended his pracftice of holding inmates in jail at ICE's request.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has filed a lawsuit over the Teller County Sheriff’s plan to use taxpayer money to enforce federal immigration law.

Legal director Mark Silverstein said the ACLU is representing six Teller County residents. It is arguing that it is unlawful for the sheriff to divert tax money from enforcing Colorado law to enforcing federal law.

The suit was filed Thursday in state district court in Teller County. 

Sheriff Jason Mikesell signed an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allows his deputies to be trained and act as federal immigration agents, according to the ACLU.

The agreement authorizes three Teller County deputies to make immigration arrests — a duty ordinarily reserved for federal law enforcement, Silverstein said. The sheriff’s office is responsible for the cost of the four-week training program.

“The most recent statute just makes it crystal clear that the sheriff is acting beyond the limits of his power under Colorado law,” he said.

Mikesell's office did not respond to requests for comment

The ACLU previously sued Mikesell for keeping suspected undocumented inmates beyond their release dates. That suit was resolved when the plaintiff was released, but the ACLU picked up the topic again with a lawsuit against the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

The Colorado district court ruled the Colorado Constitution requires the sheriff to release inmates after they have posted bail or completed their sentence, even when federal immigration authorities suspect the individuals may in the country unlawfully. The judge said holding prisoners past their release date at ICE’s request constitutes a warrantless arrest. 

That ruling was emphasized with a new Colorado law signed last month, HB19-1124.

Teller County’s deal with ICE — called a 287(g) — would become the only one in Colorado, according to the ACLU.  

“These 287(g) programs drain local resources and undermine community trust and safety,” said ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Arash Jahanian in a news release. “Teller County is walking down a path that has failed communities across the country. The Sheriff’s Office should be serving its community instead of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.”