By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - Colorado's 64 sheriffs will no longer honor federal government requests to hold suspected illegal immigrants beyond their release date on the charges they were arrested for, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Thursday.
Earlier this year, the ACLU's Colorado chapter notified the sheriffs they could he held liable for potential civil rights violations if they continued to hold people at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
So-called ICE detainers ask that local law-enforcement agencies hold a person for up to 48 hours after they are eligible for release, but recent court rulings have held that the requests are voluntary and do not have the force of law.
"Colorado sheriffs now agree that they have no legal authority to deprive persons of liberty, even for a few days, simply because ICE suspects an immigration violation," said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the ACLU of Colorado.
ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said the agency continues to cooperate with local authorities as it seeks "to enforce its priorities by identifying and removing convicted criminals and others who are public safety threats."
Chris Johnson, executive director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, said he could not confirm that all of the state's sheriffs have agreed to halt the practice.
Johnson, who was the sheriff of Otero County until June, said he stopped the administrative holds in his jurisdiction in light of the court rulings, but his office notified ICE when suspected illegals were about to be released.
Between October 2011 and August 2013, ICE issued more than 8,700 detainer requests to Colorado sheriffs, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data-gathering organization.
Colorado is the first U.S. state where all of the county sheriffs have agreed to halt the practice, Silverstein said. All but two of Colorado's counties elect their sheriffs.
In June, a suburban Denver county paid $30,000 to a woman who was held for three days in 2012 under an ICE hold after she called police to report she was a victim of domestic violence.