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Developments occur in ACLU, Nobles County lawsuit

Prairie Justice Center

MANKATO — The scope has broadened in a lawsuit against Nobles County and Sheriff Kent Wilkening that alleges suspected undocumented immigrants were unlawfully held within the Nobles County Jail beyond meeting their state release requirements.

According to court documents, a judge approved the American Civil Liberties’ Union motion for class certification late last week. As a result, the lawsuit will now include all “past and current detainees of the Nobles County Jail who were, are or will be” denied release from custody on the basis of Immigration and Customs Enforcement warrants or detainers.

Norm Pentelovitch, an attorney for the plaintiffs, called this step an integral part of the litigation process that will allow the original four named plaintiffs to act as representatives of a class of people who, like them, were allegedly unconstitutionally detained by the county at ICE’s request.

“The relief we get, if any from the court, will apply to all members of the class,” he added.

In an email response, Stephanie Angolkar, defense attorney for the county, said the class certification order is “not a decision on the merits of the case.”

Last week’s order is the latest in the lawsuit the ACLU brought forth in August on behalf of four individuals who allegedly served their sentence, posted bond or were “dissuaded from posting bail” due to being subject to an ICE hold.

In the meantime, the lawsuit has also made its way to the appellate court. In December, the county appealed a district court order prohibiting the Nobles County Jail from detaining individuals on behalf of ICE based on an ICE arrest warrant and detainer. In articulating his reason for issuing the order, Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Gregory Anderson said “there is a substantial likelihood” that the plaintiffs will win when the case comes to trial.

Angolkar said the county has complied with the temporary injunction, but it “maintains the pre-injunction transferring of ICE-processed detainees to ICE custody after their release from state custody are not arrests on behalf of ICE, nor do such transfers violate Minnesota or federal law.”

She said the county’s appeal is currently in the briefing stages and that the appellate court’s decision will impact the merits of the Plaintiff's’ case against the county.

A trial date is expected to be set after Oct. 4.