May 26, 2020
DENVER – ACLU of Colorado has appealed a ruling of the Teller County District Court dismissing a taxpayer lawsuit seeking to stop Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell from enforcing federal civil immigration law.
The lawsuit, filed last summer on behalf of six Teller County residents and taxpayers, asserts that Sheriff Mikesell exceeds his authority and violates Colorado law by participating in what is known as a 287(g) agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The 287(g) agreement calls for three Teller County deputies to double as ICE agents and exercise immigration-enforcement powers typically reserved for federal officers. It is the only 287(g) agreement in Colorado.
The Teller County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) has footed the bill for the program with taxpayer money, including paying for the three deputies to attend an ICE-sponsored four-week training course in South Carolina. ACLU’s clients are Teller County taxpayers who allege that Sheriff Mikesell is expending their tax dollars on a program that violates Colorado law.
ACLU contends that Colorado law enforcement officers violate the state Constitution if they make arrests or keep persons in custody on the ground that they are suspected of violating federal civil immigration law. A Colorado statute enacted in 2019 expressly forbids such detentions. Nevertheless, under the 287(g) program, Teller County deputies will carry out arrests and detentions prohibited by Colorado law.
In response to ACLU’s lawsuit, Sheriff Mikesell argued that he did not spend any taxpayer money on the 287(g) program. The district court accepted that argument over the ACLU’s objections and ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing. The court did not reach the ACLU’s argument that the 287(g) program violates Colorado law.
“Under Colorado law, Sheriff Mikesell has no authority to enforce federal immigration law and the Colorado legislature has forbidden the Sheriff to carry out immigration arrests,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “By dismissing this case on grounds of standing, the district court inappropriately avoids grappling with an important issue of Colorado law: does Sheriff Mikesell have the authority to defy the Colorado Legislature and the Colorado Constitution? We believe our clients properly asserted taxpayer standing and we are confident the Court of Appeals will agree.”
ACLU’s appeal will be heard by the Colorado Court of Appeals. The legal team includes ACLU Cooperating Attorneys Stephen Masciocchi and Kiki Council of Holland & Hart LLP and Byeongsook Seo and Stephanie A. Kanan of Snell & Wilmer, LLP.
The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.