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Nobles County detention policy shifted after lawsuit filed for unlawfully detaining immigrants

Nobles County detention policy shifted after lawsuit filed for unlawfully detaining immigrants Photo: KSTP

Updated: November 13, 2019 08:30 PM

A southern Minnesota sheriff has altered his county's detention policy after being sued for unlawfully detaining immigrants for federal authorities. A judge is now weighing arguments to dismiss the lawsuit or permanently block the county from detaining undocumented immigrants, after hearing arguments in court on Wednesday. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN) sued Nobles County and its sheriff, Kent Wilkening, for holding immigrants, despite having completed jail sentences or posting bond, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Last fall, a judge granted a temporary restraining order against the county barring its detention practice. 

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The county was forced to alter its policy after the Minnesota Court of Appeals declined to reverse that order in September. Judge Diane Bratvold wrote that the ACLU is likely to prevail in its lawsuit because "no Minnesota statute explicitly authorizes state and local officers to seize an individual for an immigration violation with or without warrant."

Attorney Stephanie Angolkar, who represents Wilkening and the county, is asking the state to dismiss the lawsuit since the jail has amended the policy in question. The county has previously argued it was following a long-time contract with ICE to house people suspected of violating immigration law.

Nobles County at center of immigration debate

Attorneys with the ACLU and the Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie firm are not only seeking a permanent injunction against the county, but monetary damages for the four named plaintiffs who allege false imprisonment. However, Angolkar argued the court should determine immunity applies to the county and sheriff for "using his discretion to make a professional judgment on the policy at issue." 

A ruling is expected within 90 days.

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Ana Lastra

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