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Lynette Kalsnes,

May 5, 2022

Blue Earth County Chief Judge Gregory Anderson approved a settlement Tuesday in a case where the Nobles County Sheriff’s policy of holding immigrants in jail for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) was found to be unconstitutional.

In resolving the case, Esparza et al. v. Nobles County, Nobles County and its Sheriff’s Department is permanently enjoined from detaining individuals for ICE without state law authority. Before the injunctions obtained in this case, Nobles County regularly refused to release individuals in detention even after they posted bail, completed their sentencing, or their cases were dismissed.  The trial court and Minnesota Court of Appeals each confirmed that no Minnesota law gave the county or sheriff the power to keep those individuals in jail.

The ACLU of Minnesota, in conjunction with attorneys at the law firm of Anthony Ostlund Louwagie Dressen & Boylan, P.A., filed the case in 2018 on behalf of four individuals who were illegally detained in Nobles County. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people experienced unlawful detention, including Maria de Jesus de Pineda, who was unlawfully imprisoned by Nobles County for weeks.

“I am so grateful to the ACLU attorneys because they are a light that comes in and tells you that you do have rights, and they defend you when no one else will,” de Pineda said. “I have been depressed and scared and now I am better and happier because you have taken my case, and because of that, they have stopped hurting other immigrants and violating their rights.”

Norm Pentelovitch of Anthony Ostlund said, “We brought this lawsuit because of the egregious and unlawful conduct of the Nobles County Sheriff that impacted the lives of countless immigrants. This outcome, coupled with the court’s permanent injunction barring local law enforcement from imprisoning immigrants without any legal basis, reaffirms the constitutional right of all Minnesotans — including undocumented immigrants — to be free from unlawful imprisonment.”

The ruling also included a financial settlement for the four plaintiffs.

Learn more about the case at:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes, protects, and extends the civil liberties and civil rights of all Minnesotans through litigation, lobbying, and community engagement.