COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The El Paso County Sheriff's Office is facing a class action lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union in Denver says Sheriff Bill Elder is abusing his authority and holding two people even though their families have tried posting bond.
The Sheriff's Office has said they are complying with a request from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The ACLU says these two people are only suspected of violating civil immigration laws, therefore giving no right to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office to hold them.
In a statement, Sheriff Elder said, "What I can say is that since 2007, we have not changed any of our practices as it relates to the arrest and housing of inmates to include foreign-born nationals. We arrest and house criminals where probable cause exists for a state crime. If the criminal is unlawfully present, EPSO honors the detainer filed by ICE and requires ICE to pick up the inmate within a reasonable period of time." He continues, "In addition, El Paso County maintains an Intergovernmental Agreement with ICE, agreeing to hold their in-custody foreign-born immigrants who are awaiting deportation. EPSO complies with ICE audits of the jail facility as well. EPSO is reimbursed for the costs of housing immigrants."
On Wednesday, ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein stated, "This lawsuit is arguing the Sheriff doesn't have authority under Colorado law to hold people in jail when Colorado law requires their release when they're suspected of federal immigration law, that's not probable cause."
As of Wednesday, there are 45 inmates with active local charges in addition to ICE holds. There are currently with no active charges and just being held on an ICE hold.
The first hearing is set to take place in a couple weeks in Colorado Springs.