An open letter this week from the County Sheriffs of Colorado attempts to clarify the role and legal responsibility of law enforcement with regard to detaining undocumented immigrants for eventual transfer to federal immigration authorities. Our generally conservative elected county sheriffs in Colorado are clearly taking heat from constituents energized by the President Donald Trump, and want out of the low-information line of fire:
Recently, there has been increased interest in the topic of how local governments work with federal immigration authorities. As Colorado Sheriffs, we’ve received inquiries on how our jails cooperate with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE.) Some have claimed that Colorado Sheriffs offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants in their custody. Let us clear the air.
Sheriffs hold the rule of law as sacred. We are elected with the authority to enforce the laws of Colorado and to protect the rights guaranteed in the federal and state Constitutions.
Our jails serve two distinct purposes. One is a judicial function, the other is a detention function. Under our judicial function, we hold persons accused of a crime awaiting trial, if a court has not authorized their release. This includes persons taken into custody on warrants issued by a judge or persons arrested by a peace officer under a probable cause arrest. If the court authorizes the arrestee’s release, we must release them…
Outside of legally recognized exigent circumstances, we cannot hold persons in jail at the request of a local police officer or a federal agent. To do so, would violate the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution. While Colorado Sheriffs do not have the authority to enforce federal laws, we do work cooperatively with a large variety of federal law enforcement agencies. At times, we participate in federal task forces and other times, we share information on potential federal crimes with those federal law enforcement agencies. This includes sharing information on all arrestees in our jails with the FBI and ICE. This gives them the opportunity to determine which arrestees might also be wanted by federal authorities or who might be in violation of our federal immigration laws.
If federal authorities present us with a warrant or other detainer, signed by a judge or a magistrate, we hold those persons for federal authorities to pick up. However, the courts have ruled that we have no authority to hold arrestees on administrative holds that have not been reviewed and approved by federal judges or magistrates.
Sheriffs have informed ICE that in order to comply with the 4th Amendment, we must get judicially approved holds or warrants. However, at this time, ICE chooses not to do this.
Recently, some have chosen to accuse Sheriffs of providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants, simply because we are complying with the Constitution, as determined by federal courts. This is an absolutely unsubstantiated and ridiculous claim. [Pols emphasis]
We wouldn’t put any bets on the Peter Boyles talk-radio crowd laying off the sheriffs and local governments who they regularly accuse of everything up to and including treason for not keeping undocumented immigrants locked up, but this letter is useful to prove to anyone not already on the fringe of the issue that our local law enforcers are enforcing immigration law to the full extent that it is practicable to do so.
So, you know, enough with the conspiracy theories and stupid bills.