Immigration

ACLU Suing Teller County Sheriff Again Over Cooperation With ICE

Sheriff Jason Mikesell has been battling the ACLU of Colorado in court on and off for a year.
Sheriff Jason Mikesell has been battling the ACLU of Colorado in court on and off for a year. TMJ
The ACLU of Colorado is suing Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell again over his alleged cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The lawsuit focuses on Mikesell's agreement with ICE, signed in January, that will eventually turn three of his deputies into immigration enforcement officers. The 287(g) agreement aims to give the deputies authority to start deportation proceedings on foreign-born detainees at Teller County Jail. A spokesperson for the Teller County Sheriff's Office says that the agreement is likely to go into effect at the beginning of September, after deputies receive their training from ICE.

The ACLU of Colorado contends that the agreement runs afoul of recent changes to Colorado law. In May, Governor Jared Polis signed a bill that prevents local law enforcement agencies from abiding by detainer requests from ICE, which allow local law enforcement to keep detainees in custody for up to 48 hours after their scheduled release date so that ICE can detain the individual. The law does not specifically ban 287(g) agreements, a provision that was taken out of the bill before the governor signed it. But the ACLU argues that the 287(g) agreement between Teller County and ICE is a cover to allow Teller County to abide by detainer requests.

"The federal authorities can’t authorize to do what Colorado law forbids him to do," says Mark Silverstein, legal director at the ACLU of Colorado.


In August 2018, Fourth Judicial District Judge Linda Billings Vela denied a request by the ACLU of Colorado that would have stopped the Teller County sheriff from continuing to abide by detainer requests. In February, both the ACLU and the sheriff's office agreed to dismiss the case, since the 287(g) agreement meant that the sheriff would eventually be able to handle immigration processing using his deputies rather than relying on detainer requests to hand detainees over to ICE.

Unlike the previous lawsuit against Teller County, which the ACLU of Colorado filed on behalf of a detained individual, Silverstein filed this lawsuit with multiple Teller County residents as the plaintiff.

"We have a handful of Teller County residents who reject Mikesell’s plan to use taxpayer money to enforce federal immigration law. Taxpayers have standing here in Colorado to sue to stop an expenditure of their taxpayer money that violates the state constitution," says Silverstein.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.