COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — El Paso County is appealing a ruling by a local judge who found that the sheriff can't keep suspected illegal immigrants in jail simply because federal agents ask him to. The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado successfully sued Sheriff Bill Elder last year on behalf of immigrants Saul Cisneros and Rut Noemi Chavez Rodriguez, who had been jailed four months beyond their eligibility for pre-trial release due to a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement commonly known as an ICE detainer.
Their attorney, Arash Jahanian, said at the time the Sheriff Elder was out of bounds given the US Supreme Court ruling against the State of Arizona over it's "papers please" law Senate Bill 1070.
"Our argument has always been that Sheriff Elder does not have authority under Colorado law to essentially enforce federal Immigration law," Jahanian had said.
A temporary injunction was issued in March and the lawsuit was finished by December. In May, state lawmakers passed and Governor Polis signed House Bill 1124, the Protect Colorado Residents From Federal Government Overreach Act.
It blocks all law enforcement agencies in Colorado from honoring the same immigration requests that Elder was sued over. County Commissioner Mark Waller thinks that the passage of the law proves this was a legal gray area.
"We feel and believe that since this is an unsettled area of the law, it's something that we need to pursue, because we certainly feel that the sheriff acted in the scope of the law at the time," Waller said.
Sheriff Elder said in a news release that he supports this appeal.
"I truly believe my office did the right thing by cooperating with ICE officials," Elder said. "I believe and appeal will show my officers acted lawfully. I sincerely hope our actions will be vindicated by a successful appeal."
A spokesperson for the ACLU of Colorado said they hadn't seen the filing yet and declined to comment.
Commissioner Waller thinks a successful appeal could have broader consequences.
"The outcome of this appeal will be determinative for how the rest of the state moves forward in terms of maybe going after this piece of legislation as being unconstitutional."