The ACLU of Colorado's legal challenge against the sheriff’s 287(g) agreement will return to lower court

The following statement can be attributed to Tim Macdonald, ACLU of Colorado Legal Director:

“Today the Colorado Court of Appeals rightly concluded that Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell cannot hold immigrants in jail based on requests from the federal government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The ACLU of Colorado filed a lawsuit challenging Teller County Sheriff Mikesell’s agreement with ICE — the so-called ‘287(g) agreement’ because of the section of federal law it relies on — which targeted immigrants at the Teller County Jail.

“Under the agreement, when a person suspected of a civil immigration violation was supposed to be released from jail, the sheriff instead kept them in jail without legal basis and eventually turned them over to ICE. Today the court made clear that this harmful and anti-immigrant practice violates Colorado law and cannot be tolerated. This is the first case in the country holding that a sheriff violates state law by detaining immigrants pursuant to a 287(g) agreement with ICE.

“We brought this case out of concern for the harm that the Sheriff’s agreement inflicts on all Coloradans. Local law enforcement officers have no business acting as federal immigration agents and keeping immigrants in jail — especially when state law expressly forbids them from doing so. The court’s ruling sends an important message that no Colorado sheriff is above the law.”

Representing five Teller County taxpayers, ACLU of Colorado lawyers filed the lawsuit in 2019, shortly after Colorado enacted a statute that expressly forbids state and local law enforcement officers from arresting or detaining persons based on ICE documents that are not signed by a judge — including the form relied on by Sheriff Mikesell.

In 2020, the district court ruled that the taxpayers did not have legal standing to sue. In 2022, the Court of Appeals reversed the ruling and sent the case back to the district court for trial. At the trial in January 2023, the ACLU presented evidence showing that individuals were detained at the jail under the 287(g) program for days after state law required their release and then turned over to ICE. While a Teller County judge allowed these prolonged detentions, the Court of Appeals has now reversed that decision. The Court of Appeals concluded that the Sheriff’s agreement with ICE did not give him the authority to violate Colorado law. We applaud the Colorado Court of Appeals for enforcing our state’s strong policies protecting the liberty of all Coloradans and look forward to securing an end to the Sheriff’s unlawful practices.

Cooperating counsel on the case are Stephen G. Masciocchi, Hannah E. Armentrout and Alexandria E. Pierce of Holland & Hart LLP and Byeongsook Seo and Stephanie Kanan of Snell & Wilmer, LLP.