A court has said a Minnesota county broke the law with its policy of detaining undocumented immigrants in jail to await being picked up by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), even though they had no cause to hold them.
The court found in favor of the ACLU, which had filed the lawsuit against Nobles County in 2018 on behalf of several affected people.
It comes after the county and sheriff's office in Worthington had a policy of detaining and then transferring arrested immigrants to ICE custody, even if they had posted bail, had their cases dismissed, or had finished serving their sentences.
At least a dozen people were subject to unlawful detainment in 2018, with one being held for 26 days despite paying two different bonds.
On Thursday, Blue Earth District Court Judge Gregory Anderson found that there was no legal basis to detain a person after they are entitled to release, irrespective of their immigration status.
Per MPR, Anderson referred to a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision in September that found a transfer from state to ICE custody "constitutes a new seizure, requiring probable cause."
Anderson issued a permanent injunction barring Nobles County from doing this again in the future, with the ACLU saying the plaintiffs can now seek damages at trial.
"Defendants (Nobles County) failed to perform an official duty clearly imposed by law when they continued to detain the Plaintiffs without lawful authority for some period of time when Plaintiffs otherwise should have been released," he wrote in his opinion.
The ACLU says it's the second time it's sued Nobles County for this, with the county having earlier settled by agreeing not to hold people based solely on an ICE detainer request, which the ACLU says was a promise the county broke.
"The Court has made it crystal clear that holding an immigrant in jail after they would be released under state law is an unauthorized seizure under Minnesota law,” said Norman Pentelovitch, an attorney with Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie, who worked with the ACLU.
"Depriving people of their liberty is a fundamental and cruel violation of their constitutional rights, and we’re glad the courts are holding Nobles County accountable."
Nobles County has not yet commented publicly on the outcome of the case.