In his ongoing battle with the ACLU, Sheriff Jason Mikesell added another victory notch to his belt of determination to detain immigrants accused of crimes in Teller County.
Mikesell has signed a new agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under the 287(g) option. The agreement will allow two members of the Teller County Sheriff’s Office to be trained in interrogating suspected undocumented migrants at the county jail, issue arrest warrants for immigration violations and complete paperwork to begin the deportation process.
“When I have somebody who comes into the jail who is here illegally in the United States and has committed a crime — those inmates before were taken in on the I-247,” said Mikesell, speaking to more than 70 people Jan. 29 at the Ute Pass Cultural Center.
Sued in July by the ACLU, which accused the sheriff of illegally holding Leonardo Conseco Salinas, who posted an $800 bond, Mikesell got a favorable ruling by Judge Lin Billings-Vela. After Conseco posted the bond, the sheriff held the man for 48 hours at the request of ICE, the result of an agreement between the agencies.
At the time of Conseco’s arrest in July by the Division of Gaming in Cripple Creek, officers discovered what they suspected was a forged green card.
The ACLU appealed the decision.
Conseco, for instance, was held on an agreement with ICE, under the 1-247 option, which allows the sheriff to hold illegal immigrants arrested and charged with a crime up to 48 hours after the inmate posts bond.
“The issue in Colorado was that a deputy cannot make that arrest — has to be a federal agent to make that arrest,” Mikesell said. The ACLU was able to sue me because they said I was illegally detaining somebody on that 48-hour hold on an I-247.”
With the new agreement, two jail deputies have been certified by ICE in the 287g program that included four-weeks of basic training and a one-week refresher course, the cost provided by the federal government.
“Once those deputies are trained they can go into the computer and access the federal government files to see if the inmate is wanted,” Mikesell said. “Then the deputies can make that arrest. Then it takes away the ability to be sued again the ACLU for that amount of time.”
According to Homeland Security’s website, 287(g) authorizes the director of ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions provided the ... officers receive appropriate training.
Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado, doesn’t agree.
“Colorado law does not authorize Colorado sheriffs to enforce federal immigration law. That is why it is the ACLU’s position that Colorado sheriffs exceed their authority when they rely on ICE detainers to hold prisoners past their release date,” Silverstein wrote in an email to the Courier.
“For the same reason, it is our position that Sheriff Mikesell has no authority to enter into this 287(g) agreement with ICE. When Teller County deputies exercise the functions of federal immigration officers, they exceed the authority granted them by the Colorado Constitution and Colorado statutes.
“In the pending case, our client was released from the jail last summer, and accordingly, it has not been clear whether the court will be willing to issue a final ruling on the issues we originally raised about ICE detainers. Similarly, we don’t know at this point whether the court will hear the ACLU’s legal arguments about the 287(g) agreement in this case, since our client’s release from the jail occurred long before the 287(g) agreement was signed.”
But Mikesell feels he’s got the right to enter the agreement about 287(g). “We’re the first ones in the state to go back to the program,” he said. “El Paso County had that program and weren’t being sued for it.”
But other counties in the state dropped the program in fear of being sued by the ACLU, Mikesell said. “There were a lot of threats,” he said. “If you allow them to continually sue you or threaten you and you stop, they are going to continue.”
The program is only for people already arrested. “I’m not interested in going out and finding people,” he said. “If you do a crime or something wrong in our community, you’re going to be arrested. And if the U.S. Government decides they want those people because they are a threat to somebody else within the country, I’m not going to stop ICE from taking that person. I don’t think they should be here.”