CRIPPLE CREEK — A judge will decide by the end of February if Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell is authorized under Colorado law to continue working with federal immigration agents to hold people living in the country illegally in jail after they post bond.
Closing arguments Thursday capped a three-day trial in Cripple Creek where attorneys representing five Teller County residents argued that Mikesell’s agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement violated state law and the Colorado Constitution and was not essential to the sheriff’s mission to preserve peace across the county.
If District Court Judge Scott Sells rules in favor of the residents, the Teller County Sheriff’s Office would be forced to end its 287(g) agreement with ICE, effectively ending the practice across the state, according to the ACLU of Colorado.
“The officers were trained by ICE and were delegated authorities. We don’t dispute that,” ACLU attorney Annie Kurtz said in her closing statements. “The question is: Can they carry out those delegated duties consistent with Colorado law? And that answer here is: No.”
Attorneys for the sheriff say the agreement is consistent with Colorado law, and while performing duties under the agreement, the four trained sheriff’s deputies were acting as “de facto federal immigration officers.”
“The law doesn’t prohibit the 287(g) agreement,” attorney Paul Hurcomb said in court. “They want to refuse the authority of someone designated as an immigration officer. They are issued credentials, they identify themselves that way, they are 100%, in scope, a federal officer when they are doing their 287(g) duties.”
Both prosecutors and defense pored over detainer forms, booking logs and jail protocols for hours during the trial. Testimony came from three former and current sheriff’s deputies who received training from ICE, giving them the authority to execute warrants not signed by a judge for violating federal immigration law, after they posted bond for a state-level crime.
While performing the duties under the 287(g) agreement, the deputies were employed and paid by the sheriff’s office. ICE paid for the four-week, out-of-state training the deputies received, Mikesell testified.
The 287(g) agreement, like other intergovernmental agreements, aids the sheriff in his mission to promote public safety, which extends beyond issuing summons and arrests to enforce criminal law, Hurcomb said.
But Kurtz argued the sheriff can stay committed to his mission of public safety without the agreement, she said, adding that no person has been held in jail under the agreement in the past year.