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Communications Director Lynette Kalsnes, or 612-274-7785. 

September 23, 2019

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday in favor of the ACLU-MN’s argument that local law enforcement does not have the authority to detain people for ICE.

In its class-action lawsuit Rodrigo Esparza v. Nobles County, the ACLU-MN and ACLU argued that Nobles County and its Sheriff Kent Wilkening routinely held immigrants in jail for ICE, even after he was supposed to release them. That violated people’s rights under Minnesota statutes, as well as the rights to due process, to bail and to be free from unreasonable seizures under our state Constitution.

The Court of Appeals agreed the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their argument that holding people for ICE after they’ve been released from state custody is a new seizure under Minnesota law. That means these arrests would require proper authority.

 “We conclude that no Minnesota statute explicitly authorizes state and local officers to seize an individual for an immigration violation with or without a warrant,” the court wrote. The Court also said that local law enforcement lacks the training and authority to act as federal immigration officials on civil immigration matters.

“This decision will help ensure that Minnesota law enforcement officers do not go beyond their authority to act as federal immigration officials,” said Norman Pentelovitch, an attorney with Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie, who is working with the ACLU on the case.The Court made clear that holding an immigrant in jail after they would be released under state law is an unauthorized seizure under Minnesota law.”

The Court of Appeals upheld a temporary restraining order (TRO), which halts these ICE holds. The Minnesota Attorney General filed an amicus brief siding with the ACLU in support of our TRO, as did the Binger Center for New Americans.

The ACLU-MN’s Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project filed Esparza in August of 2018 because Sheriff Wilkening was refusing to release immigrants from custody, even after they had posted bond, had their cases dismissed, or completed their sentences. At least a dozen people experienced this unlawful detainment in 2018 — with Maria de Jesus de Pineda being held for 26 days despite paying two different bonds.

 The ACLU-MN is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to defend the civil liberties of all Minnesotans. Learn more at