Nobles County at Center of Immigration Debate

October 16, 2018 06:51 AM

A rural Minnesota county is currently at the center of the national immigration debate.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Nobles County and its sheriff, Kent Wilkening, accusing him of exceeding authority by holding people suspected of violating immigration law.


Nobles County is three hours southwest of the Twin Cities. About 21,000 people live there. One in five residents also happens to be "foreign born," according to U.S. Census information.

On 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS at 10 p.m. Tuesday, you'll meet Maria de Pineda, who lives with her three boys in Worthington.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota reported she spent 17 days behind bars in the Nobles County Jail when she shouldn't have. Jail records show she was being held for customs and immigration enforcement.

However, the ACLU is arguing in a lawsuit the Nobles County sheriff is overstepping his authority holding people this way, violating de Pinenda's rights and the rights of others like her.

"Our constitution is beautiful because it protects all people not all citizens and the protections all people get include the protection against deprivation of liberty."

The county and sheriff deny any wrongdoing.

In court filings, Wilkening responded, writing, "cooperation with ICE is critical to protecting Nobles County citizens from illegal activities by aliens."

This also isn't the first time this debate has played out in court in Nobles County. The county and the ACLU reached a settlement in a similar lawsuit in 2017.

Watch KSTP's Matt Belanger's in-depth report as he looks at this issue that's putting a small Minnesota town in the national spotlight, on 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS at 10 p.m. Tuesday.


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