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Nobles County loses immigration detention lawsuit

Updated: January 30, 2020 06:14 PM

A judge has permanently barred a southern Minnesota sheriff from unlawfully detaining immigrants on behalf of federal authorities, despite those detainees completing their jail sentences or posting bond.

Blue Earth County Judge Greg Anderson issued the order in support of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota’s class-action lawsuit against the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.

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Nobles County at center of immigration debate

In 2018, the ACLU sued the county and its sheriff, Kent Wilkening, for holding immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement without proper authorization. Anderson approved a temporary restraining order against the practice, which was upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals last fall.

Despite the permanent ban, Anderson stated that the order does not prevent the county “from continuing cooperation with ICE or providing housing services as provided under the contract.”

A lawyer representing the county released a statement saying that the permanent injunction will not affect the jail’s current practices because of last year’s policy changes.

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

The named plaintiffs in the lawsuit will now be able to seek monetary damages in a trial, according to the order.

“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,” said Norman Pentelovitch, an attorney with Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie.

This is the second time the ACLU has sued Nobles County for its immigration detention policy. The first case was settled in 2017 after the county agreed to reform its detention policy.

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