Lawsuit: Teller County sheriff’s policy violates immigrants’ rights

DENVER — Another Colorado sheriff’s office is being accused of violating immigrants’ rights by holding them in jail at the request of federal immigration authorities, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

The complaint filed in Teller County District Court argues that Sheriff Jason Mikesell “continues to hold prisoners in custody after state law requires their release.”

Teller County Sheriff Commander Greg Couch said he could not comment on the suit immediately because Mikesell had not received it. The ACLU filed a similar suit in El Paso County earlier this year.

In Teller County, the group is suing on behalf of Leonardo Canseco Salinas, a 44-year-old man who was arrested July 14 on two misdemeanor charges.

According to the lawsuit, Canseco wants to post his $800 bond but unnamed jail officials said he still would not be released because of an “ICE hold.” According to the lawsuit, the office has no written policies for responding to immigration officials’ requests but regularly complies “even after the detainee has posted bond, completed his sentence, or otherwise resolved his criminal case.”

“Colorado sheriffs have no authority to enforce federal immigration law,” ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein said. “Being present in the country in violation of the immigration laws is a civil matter, not a crime.”

The group in February filed a similar lawsuit against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder on behalf of two men, accusing the sheriff’s office of holding people “for days, weeks and even months after state law requires their release.” At the time, ACLU officials said they believed the suit was the first legal challenge to the argument that a housing contract could allow sheriffs to hold people for immigration authorities.

Elder’s office argued that it had an agreement to house people suspected of being in the country illegally on behalf of federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

A judge ruled in March that Elder cannot continue holding people once they have paid bond or otherwise resolved their state cases.

That suit also has been granted class action status, expanding it to any current and future inmates of El Paso County’s jail.

Courts in several states have ruled that local law enforcement cannot hold people for immigration authorities without violating their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

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