A view of the Teller County Sheriff’s Office. (Google Maps)
A three-day trial set to start next week will concern whether Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell violated Colorado law by having his officers enforce federal immigration law.
The trial stems from a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado on behalf of local plaintiffs in Teller County District Court. The lawsuit claims Mikesell violated both Colorado statute and the Colorado Constitution by participating in a so-called 287(g) agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
This agreement — which is the last one still in place in Colorado — allows Mikesell to send three of his department’s deputies out of state for a four-week training program on immigration law at the expense of the Teller County Sheriff’s Office, according to the ACLU’s complaint.
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This would then allow the sheriff’s department to make immigration-related arrests and exercise other powers typically limited to federal officers. The ACLU’s plan is to present evidence showing that detainees in Teller County were not released as required by Colorado law and were instead held and turned over to ICE. A Colorado statute from 2019 prohibits local law enforcement from detaining people on the basis of ICE documents without a judge’s signature.
ACLU of Colorado lawyers are representing five Teller County taxpayers as the plaintiffs who oppose their tax dollars being used for this purpose. In his response to an amended complaint filed with the court, Mikesell admitted to signing a 287(g) agreement, but denies all allegations of breaking Colorado law, according to his response. He also denied using taxpayer dollars for something Colorado law prevents him from doing.
The ACLU initially filed a complaint in 2019, but the court ruled that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit forward. The Court of Appeals reversed this decision and returned the case to the district court, where trial is set to begin on Jan. 24.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:26 a.m., Jan. 24, 2023, to correct the number of plaintiffs in the trial.
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