Federal, state top chief legal offices make arguments in ACLU’s Nobles County lawsuit

ST. PAUL -- A lawsuit alleging Nobles County and its sheriff unlawfully held individuals at the request of federal authorities is gaining interest from multiple entities, including the nation's and state's top chief legal offices.

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Prairie Justice Center

ST. PAUL - A lawsuit alleging Nobles County and its sheriff unlawfully held individuals at the request of federal authorities is gaining interest from multiple entities, including the nation’s and state’s top chief legal offices.

The United States Department of Justice and Minnesota State Attorney General’s Office have both filed legal arguments in the lawsuit filed on behalf of individuals suspected of being removable from the country under immigration law, and were denied release from the Nobles County Jail on reported Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds. The U.S. DOJ supports Nobles County and the state AG backs the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota’s position in the case, which has now made its way to and is in the briefing stages at the Minnesota Appellate Court.

In its detailed arguments, the AG urges the appellate court to uphold the temporary restraining order handed by the district court that effectively requires the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office to release all individuals once they’ve satisfied their state confinement requirements. The defense has appealed that order, and a decision is outstanding in the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Specifically, the attorney general’s office argues that Minnesota state and local law enforcement have no authority based on Minnesota law to detain individuals on the basis of ICE documents. Such a practice would pose a potential liability issue, the AG’s office added.

“The continued hold by Nobles County of an otherwise free individual is an arrest in violation of Minnesota Law,” the brief states.


The U.S. DOJ doesn’t see it that way, as argued in a comparable court document filed in February. Similarly to the district court case, the DOJ made a lengthy argument that the Nobles County sheriff did not violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when it complied with ICE’s detainer requests. It asked the appellate court to vacate the preliminary injunction and “uphold the constitutionality and legality of cooperation with ICE’s immigration enforcement efforts.”

The Minnesota Attorney General’s brief adds that ICE enforcement in Minnesota will not cease if the court determines that Minnesota state and local law enforcement may not arrest an individual on the federal government’s behalf as it has using ICE forms 287 and 200.

“It would only mean that the federal government would have to use its own personnel and resources … to arrest individuals it believes are deportable in Minnesota,” the brief said.

The DOJ maintains that the transfer of custody allows a person to be detained in a safe and orderly way.

Another interested group - Law Professors and National Immigrant Justice Center - also made an argument backing the ACLU’s case.

“It seems ICE may have a widespread practice of issuing these administrative warrants in violation of law,” the organization argued, adding its position that arrests made by the NCSO based on immigration detainers are not authorized under federal or state law.

It urged the court to affirm the preliminary injunction.

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