ACLU Sues Colorado Sheriff For Illegally Imprisoning Colorado Resident Suspected Of Immigration Violations

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Maria Archuleta, ACLU, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado, (303) 777-5482 ext. 114

ACLU Sues Colorado Sheriff For Illegally Imprisoning Colorado Resident Suspected Of Immigration Violations

DENVER - The
American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Colorado filed a lawsuit
in a Denver federal court today against the sheriff of Jefferson County
in Colorado arguing that he unjustifiably and illegally imprisoned a
Colorado resident for 47 days last year with no charges pending against
him simply because federal immigration officers suspected that the man
was in the U.S. in violation of federal immigration laws.

"Without any legal authority
whatsoever, Sheriff Ted Mink imprisoned our client and kept him in
legal limbo for 47 days with no charges pending, no opportunity to see
a judge and no opportunity to post bail," said Mark Silverstein, Legal
Director of the ACLU of Colorado. "Our fundamental constitutional
values prohibit depriving any person of liberty without due process of
law."  
 
Luis Quezada, the ACLU's client, was
arrested and taken to the Jefferson County Jail where he was held for
three days in May 2009 for failing to appear in court on a traffic
charge. He promptly resolved the traffic charge, and the county court
judge ordered him released.
 
Quezada was not released, however,
because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sent the jail an
immigration detainer advising that it was investigating whether Quezada
was violating immigration laws. An immigration detainer instructs a
jail or prison to hold a particular detainee an additional 48 hours
(excluding weekends and holidays) after the detainee's release date.
The detainer states that its purpose is to provide adequate time for
ICE agents to determine whether to take the detainee into federal
custody and begin formal deportation proceedings. Yet after the 48 hour
detainer expired, the Jefferson County sheriff continued to unlawfully
hold Quezada for an additional 47 days.

When ICE finally took Quezada into
custody in mid-July 2009, the agency immediately allowed him to be
released on bond while he defended himself in immigration court.  

"By allowing Mr. Quezada to post
bond and be released, ICE determined that our client poses no danger to
the community and is not a flight risk. Those same facts existed when
our client was originally detained," said Dan Williams, an attorney
with the law firm of Faegre & Benson and cooperating attorney for
the ACLU of Colorado. "No right is more firmly ingrained in our
Constitution and our understanding of freedom than the right not to be
left in jail indefinitely without charges filed or an opportunity to
post bail, yet that is exactly what happened here. This lawsuit seeks
to compensate Mr. Quezada, and we hope that it will serve as a wake-up
call to law enforcement throughout Colorado to stop this lawless
deprivation of liberty."

The ACLU of Colorado has received
multiple complaints of similar cases in which Colorado jails held
suspected immigration violators without legal authority. To address the
recurring issue, the ACLU of Colorado wrote to all Colorado sheriffs in
the fall of 2008, advising that any legal authority of an immigration
detainer expires after 48 hours. The ACLU also asked Colorado sheriffs
for copies of any written policies instructing jail deputies on how to
proceed when the jail receives immigration detainers. The Jefferson
County attorney responded that the sheriff's office had no applicable
written policies.

ICE routinely issues immigration
detainers to law enforcement agencies around the country as part of
part of ICE enforcement initiatives involving state and local police
such as the 287(g) program, Secure Communities and the Criminal Alien
Program. In addition to causing racial profiling and harming public
safety, those initiatives raise the risk that agencies and officers
will face increased claims for damages as a result of cases like
Quezada's.

"ICE is issuing detainers by the
thousands in an attempt to use state and local police and sheriffs as
adjunct federal immigration officers," said Omar Jadwat, a staff
attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "However, police
officers and jailers are always required to obey the Constitution and
simply cannot imprison a person in this way, even if an immigration
detainer exists. States and municipalities open themselves to liability
when they treat ICE detainers as if they were sentences imposed by a
court."

Attorneys on the case, Quezada v. Mink,
include Jadwat of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project; Silverstein and
Taylor Pendergrass of the ACLU of Colorado; and Williams of the law
firm of Faegre & Benson.

A copy of the complaint can be found at:

www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/quezada-v-mink-amended-complaint-and-jury-demand

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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