In this class action lawsuit, the ACLU of Colorado contends that El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder violates Colorado law by refusing, at the request of federal immigraiton officials to release prisoners who have posted bond, completed their sentence, or otherwise resolved their criminal case. 

According to the ACLU lawsuit, Sheriff Elder has unlawfully imprisoned dozens of individuals for days, weeks, and even months, without a warrant, without probable cause of a crime, and without any other valid legal authority, solely on the ground that ICE suspects that they are subject to deportation for civil immigration violations.

Sheriff Elder relies on ICE detainers, which are not warrants and are not issued or signed by a judicial officer.

The ACLU’s clients, Saul Cisneros and Rut Chavez, have been held in the El Paso County Jail as pretrial detainees since November.  Shortly after Cisneros was arrested, his daughter posted his bond, set at $2,000 by the county court.  But the jail refused to release him because of a detainer request from ICE. Similarly, Chavez’s pastor and his wife have been told that due to an “ICE hold,” the jail will not release Chavez on the $1000 bond set by the El Paso County District Court.  

According to the complaint, almost two hundred prisoners were subject to ICE holds in the El Paso County Jail in 2017, and the jail labels more than four dozen prisoners as “ICE holds” on any given day.

The ACLU asks the court to rule that Colorado sheriffs cannot rely on ICE documents that are not signed by a judge as grounds to keep inmates in jail after they have posted bond or otherwise resolved their criminal case.  The action seeks a declaratory jdugment and a preliminary and permanent injunction on behalf of all current and future prisoners who are the subject of ICE detainers.  In a separately-litigated companion case, Mr. Cisneros seeks monetary compensation for the several months that he illegally imprisoned after his daughter posted his bond. 

Update:   The court issued a preliminary and then a permanent injunction prohibiting Sheriff Elder from holding prisoners on the basis of ICE detainers or ICE administrative warrants.  Sheriff Elder appealed.  In 2019, while the appeal was pending, the Colorado Legislature enacted a statute that codified the Cisneros ruling, thus prohibiting all Colorado sheriffs from holding prisoners on the basis of ICE documents that are not signed by a judge.  C.R.S. §§ 24-76.6-101-02. The Court of Appeals then dismissed Sheriff Elder’s appeal as moot

ACLU news releases:



Stephen G. Masciocchi, ACLU Cooperating Attorney; Mark Silverstein, Arash Jahanian

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Holland & Hart, LLP


El Paso County District Court


Honorable Eric Bentley

Case number

2018 - 2, No. 2021SC6,