DENVER - 4/30 - Earlier today, Denver County Sheriff Gary Wilson announced that Denver will join the growing number of Colorado counties that have decided over the last two days to stop honoring immigration detainers from federal authorities that request that a person be held in jail for up to six days after they would otherwise be released.

Yesterday, the ACLU of Colorado sent letters to every sheriff in the state calling into question the legal authority under Colorado state law to detain people at the behest of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Sheriffs from around the state have responded by announcing that they will no longer honor the holds.  As of today, Denver joins Boulder County, Mesa County, Routt County, Jefferson County, Grand County, and San Miguel County.

Statement of ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Mark Silverstein

“For several years, the ACLU of Colorado has urged Colorado law enforcement to stop holding persons in custody on the sole authority of an immigration detainer sent by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Today, we are happy to announce that several counties, including Denver, have decided over the last 48 hours to reject ICE requests to detain residents without criminal warrants or legal justification.

“The cascade of recent decisions by Colorado sheriffs reflects good judgment that getting involved in immigration enforcement undermines community trust in the police and makes everyone less safe.  Local law enforcement’s top concerns should be community trust and public safety.  Victims and witnesses of crimes should not fear calling the police, but that’s what happens when the community fears that contact with law enforcement can be the first step in a seamless transfer to jail and then to immigration proceedings.

“An ICE detainer is not a warrant; it is not approved by a judge.  It does not mean that there has been a finding about the person’s immigration status.   It does not even mean that ICE has probable cause to believe the person is deportable.  Indeed, ICE makes mistakes—it has regularly issued detainers against citizens or legal residents and denied liberty to people who are not deportable.

“When ICE asks a sheriff to hold a prisoner for up to six extra days, 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.   Peace officers in Colorado have authority to deprive persons of liberty when there is probable cause to believe they have committed a crime.   Remaining in the country in violation of federal immigration laws is not a crime.   Colorado law does not provide sheriffs any authority to deprive persons of liberty because the federal government suspects they may be subject to civil immigration enforcement proceedings.

We applaud Denver’s decision, as well as the growing number of Colorado sheriffs who are making the same decision.  We expect this rapidly developing trend to continue, and we encourage every county in the state to join in rejecting federal immigration detainers."

Read the ACLU letter to Colorado Sheriffs here.