DIVIDE — Friday night a fight broke out between members of opposing groups gathered near the Teller County Jail in Divide. One group was there to protest the Sheriff's Office agreement with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and over the detention of one person being held on a detainer. The other side was there to show their support for the sheriff's office.
The event was meant to be a car rally. The sheriff's office says deputies did create a designated protest area on the site, which few decided to use. According to the sheriff's office, the group demanding the release of all ICE detainees was joined by members of two organizations, 'Abolish ICE Denver' and 'Colorado Springs Socialists.'
Deputies were informed of a disturbance away from the designated protest area, but arrive after the incident, and no one made a report about an assault.
According to a Facebook post by the sheriff's office, deputies reviewed video and are now conducting an investigation into the incident.
(Editor's note: This article was updated to reflect the latest information on the protest and to detail the 287(g) agreement.)
In 2019, News5's Sam Kraemer sat down with Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell to learn more about the 287(g) agreement with ICE.
The agreement lets local authorities help ICE in determining whether criminals brought into the jail are in the country legally. Per the agreement, three of Sheriff Jason Mikesell’s deputies working in the Teller County Jail were to undergo training to also work as immigration agents. That amounts to around 10 percent of the deputies that work in the jail, according to the sheriff.
The deal also doesn’t cost his office and taxpayers much money, Mikesell said. ICE will foot the bill to train Teller County deputies, fly them to training and provide them lodging during that time. The federal government will also provide computer systems with access to specific immigration-centered databases for the trained deputies to use at the jail in Divide.
Mikesell stressed that his deputies will not be going out into the community and conducting round-up operations. The participating deputies can only initiate the process from inside the jail, after someone has been arrested.
At the end of the day, Mikesell said it’s about doing the job he was elected to do. “My goal is to protect our citizens and our community. It’s not to round people up or bring people in for questioning. We don’t do that,” Mikesell said.
There was a lawsuit brought by ACLU Colorado that was was dismissed in 2019. ACLU Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein told News 5 at the time, his office agreed to toss the lawsuit because the plaintiff was no longer in jail. “Our client left the jail last summer, and he’s never been subjected to any actions under this new agreement with federal authorities,” Silverstein said in 2019.
Mikesell said his decision to help ICE isn’t just for anyone. The people his office have arrested and looked into in the past faced charges for attempted murder, illegal manufacturing and illegal distribution of black-market marijuana, he said. “Why shouldn’t I be able to help our federal government in stopping known criminals from being in this country? It doesn’t make sense,” Mikesell said in 2019.
The Teller County Jail is the only Colorado facility to be part of the 287(g) program. As part of the deal, ICE receives access to office space inside the jail.