Judge tosses ACLU of Colorado lawsuit against Teller County sheriff


A Teller County District judge this week quashed a lawsuit by the ACLU of Colorado challenging Sheriff Jason Mikesell’s participation in a federal immigration initiative, ruling the civil liberties group’s clients have no standing to bring the action.

The lawsuit, filed in July on behalf of six Teller County residents and taxpayers, argued that Mikesell’s cooperation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement violates Colorado law and the state constitution.

Instead of addressing that argument, Judge Scott Sells on Tuesday dismissed the case on procedural grounds, saying the program doesn’t use taxpayer money and therefore the plaintiffs have no basis to sue.

“This court ruling allows the sheriff to continue to protect the citizens of Teller County and sustain the way of life this community wants,” Mikesell said in a statement. The sheriff has said the program keeps Teller County residents safe from Mexican drug gangs.

The ACLU sought to halt Mikesell’s participation in a 287(g) program, in which three sheriff’s deputies were deputized by ICE to help issue civil detainers allowing suspected undocumented immigrants to be held beyond their normal release dates, giving immigration authorities time to take them into federal custody for deportation.

In December 2018, a similar ACLU suit scuttled the practice at the El Paso County jail, when County District Judge Eric Bentley sided with the group in finding sheriffs have no legal authority to hold people solely on ICE detainers.

A Colorado law that went into effect in August cemented Bentley’s ruling, prohibiting sheriffs from honoring the federal civil detainers.

Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado, said the group would appeal Sells’ dismissal. He challenged the conclusion that no taxpayer funds were used.

“We’re expecting that the court will either send it back or say, no, we have taxpayer standing, let’s get to the merits,” Silverstein said.

Mikesell proceeded with the 287(g) program even as El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder abandoned the practice and despite the passage of the new law last summer. Attorneys for the sheriff have argued that “federal law preempts state law in the field of immigration.”

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