The Lincoln County Sheriff is illegally imprisoning a Montana resident at the request of U.S. Immigration Officials, according to a lawsuit filed today with the Lincoln County District Court by the ACLU of Montana, the ACLU, and the Border Crossing Law Firm.
According to the complaint, Agustin Ramon, a dual citizen of France and Mexico, has been wrongfully jailed for more than two months in the Lincoln County Jail at the request of federal immigration officials. The groups are suing Roby Bowe, Lincoln County Sheriff, for violating Montana law by honoring an ICE detainer to hold Ramon. Ramon’s lawsuit claims that his detainer violates his rights under the Montana Constitution and is also illegal under Montana law.
An ICE detainer is a written request that a local jail or other law enforcement agency detain an individual for an additional 48 hours after their release date. This extra time in jail allows immigration officials to decide whether to take the individual into federal custody to begin the process of removing them from the U.S.
There is no legal requirement that local officers must cooperate with an ICE detainer request. In fact, cases in the last few years show that local jurisdictions face a significant risk of litigation and financial liability when they honor such requests.
“Sheriff Bowe is depriving Mr. Ramon of his liberty without any legal authority,” said ACLU of Montana Legal Director Alex Rate. “Sheriff Bowe’s actions are not only illegal, they also risk undermining the trust between local law enforcement and the community. That makes everyone less safe. We urge Sheriff Bowe to release Mr. Ramon immediately. Our constitution demands nothing less.”
Ramon was booked in the Lincoln County Jail on August 3, 2018, after being accused of a criminal offense. The court set his bond for $25,000. But when Ramon tried to pay his bond to secure his release from jail pending trial, he was informed that because of an ICE detainer, the jail could not release him.
“Montana law is clear,” said Shahid Haque, attorney with the Border Crossing Law Firm. “When an immigrant posts bond, they must be released from custody, just like anyone else. Sheriff Bowe must comply with state law.”
The class-action lawsuit seeks to end the use of ICE detainers for all current and future prisoners in the Lincoln County Jail who are the subject of such detainers. It also seeks compensation for Ramon’s false imprisonment.
The practice of using ICE detainers is not limited to Lincoln County. Other law enforcement agencies in Montana have also held people for ICE when they are suspected of being immigrants.
“Our goal with this lawsuit is two-fold: to bring justice to Mr. Ramon and others unlawfully detained in Lincoln County, and to end the use of detainers throughout the state of Montana,” said Rate. “Counties throughout the state should be on notice. We won’t stop until that’s a reality.”
While the Trump Administration continues to push for draconian anti-immigrant policies and practices, including the use of ICE detainers by local law enforcement agencies, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and law enforcement leaders from across the country have all adopted positions opposing local entanglement with immigration enforcement on the ground that it harms public safety.
In 2017, the ACLU of Montana was one of a dozen Montana organizations that took a stand against ICE detainers.
CONTACT: Kirsten Bokenkamp, ACLU of Montana, 334-314-6582, firstname.lastname@example.org