Ruling: Judge allows Colo. sheriff to jail suspected illegal immigrants at ICE’s request

Author: Lance Benzel - August 20, 2018 - Updated: September 10, 2018

Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell. (Courtesy photo)

Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell may continue jailing suspected illegal immigrants at the request of federal immigration authorities, a judge ruled Sunday in tossing out a request by the ACLU.

The ruling by 4th Judicial District Judge Lin Billings-Vela essentially frees the sheriff’s office to continue to cooperate with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement pending the outcome of an ACLU lawsuit.

“We won the right to continue to protect our citizens,” Teller County sheriff’s spokesman Cmdr. Greg Couch said in a news release, saying the ruling would bolster the sheriff’s efforts in “this important law enforcement area.”

The ACLU petitioned for a preliminary injunction earlier this month, asking that the jail be barred from relying on ICE requests to hold inmates who otherwise are eligible for release from jail. The civil liberties group argued that the federal agency’s detainments lack authority under Colorado law, which they say mandates that inmates be released if they post bond.

The group’s request came as part of a lawsuit it filed in July on behalf of Leonardo Canseco Salinas, a Teller County man who has been denied release on an $800 bond over two misdemeanors involving the alleged theft of $8 from a fellow gambler at a casino. ICE has said the man is in the U.S. illegally and wants the sheriff’s office to continue holding him in jail so that the agency can take him into custody to pursue his deportation.

Vela’s ruling conflicts with one issued by an El Paso County district judge earlier this year in a similar case.

In March, District Judge Eric Bentley granted an ACLU request that the court halt the same practice by the El Paso County jail pending a similar lawsuit.

Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado, said his organization was undeterred by the ruling.

“We are disappointed with the court’s initial finding in the Canseco case, with which we fundamentally disagree,” Silverstein said. “This decision is now in direct conflict with a previous order from the same court stating that requests from ICE do not provide legal authority for Colorado sheriffs to hold individuals after they post bond or resolve their criminal cases.

“We are confident that the higher courts will ultimately agree with our position, and we will continue to work toward that result.”

This is a developing story. Check back with Colorado Politics for more.

Lance Benzel