A Minnesota district court judge ruled against Nobles County’s policy of holding illegal immigrants in jail for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after they were supposed to be released.
In his Thursday ruling, District Judge Gregory Anderson said that the county “failed to perform an official duty clearly imposed by law when they continued to detain the Plaintiffs without lawful authority for some period of time when Plaintiffs otherwise should have been released.”
The ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Minnesota in September 2018 against Nobles County. According a press release from the ACLU, Sheriff Kent Wilkening would hold immigrants for ICE after they had posted their bail, had their cases dismissed or had finished serving their sentences.
The complaint said that “at least a dozen people experienced this unlawful detainment” in 2018, including Maria de Jesus de Pineda, who was held in jail for 26 days after paying two different bonds.
“An objective inquiry into the legal reasonableness of an official’s actions establishes that Defendant Wilkening’s actions as a willful or malicious wrong and therefore not subject to immunity,” Judge Anderson continued.
The judge claimed that Sheriff Wilkening knew detaining immigrants for ICE was “risky,” since the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association had previously warned against the practice. Essentially, Anderson’s ruling argued that there is no basis for detaining an inmate after state law entitles them to release, even if ICE has issued a federal detainer.
In a previous settlement with the ACLU, Nobles County agreed not to hold inmates based on an ICE detainer, but apparently did so anyway.
“The Court has made it crystal clear that holding an immigrant in jail after they would be released under state law is an unauthorized seizure under Minnesota law,” said Norman Pentelovitch, an attorney with Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie, a firm that worked with the ACLU on the case. “Depriving people of their liberty is a fundamental and cruel violation of their constitutional rights, and we’re glad the courts are holding Nobles County accountable.”
Anderson granted a permanent injunction that bars Nobles County from detaining immigrants for ICE, and the plaintiffs in the case can now seek damages at trial.
ICE has been warning sanctuary jurisdictions against ignoring written detainer requests filed by the federal agency. In a recent statement, ICE claimed that the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio released 29 criminal aliens, including a sex offender, after ignoring detainer requests.
ICE said that “any local jurisdiction thinking that refusing to cooperate with ICE will result in a decrease in local immigration enforcement is mistaken.”
“Local jurisdictions that choose to not cooperate with ICE are likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity, as the agency has no choice but to conduct more at-large arrest operations,” said the agency.
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