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.


more on this case