DENVER (CBS4) – A federal judge ruled Monday that the Denver Sheriff Department must comply with administrative subpoenas from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In February, ICE filed a petition in U.S. District Court asking a judge to enforce three subpoenas requesting information about immigrants arrested in Denver.
The Denver Sheriff Department received the administrative subpoenas in January requesting information about four inmates, including where they live and work. The four men had been arrested on charges including vehicular homicide, domestic violence and sexual assault.
The subpoenas were not signed by a judge. Per a city ordinance, Denver does not comply with subpoenas unless they are court-ordered or primarily related to a criminal investigation.
In his ruling Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty stated ICE has the authority to issue the subpoenas and the sheriff department must provide the requested information.
“We are pleased with the outcome and look forward to Denver providing the information,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement to CBS4.
The Denver City Attorney’s Office argued ICE’s request was an improper expenditure of public safety resources and lacked good faith. In an email to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Chad Sublet with the Denver Attorney’s Office said the information requested was already available to ICE through federal databases.
“The fact that ICE has access to this data and in fact already has the data itself, undermines any assertion these subpoenas were issued in good faith and demonstrates that the information is not relevant to any legitimate inquiry as it is unnecessary and duplicative,” Sublet said in the email.
In his ruling, Judge Hegarty stated, “To the extent these arguments raise political questions, they are beyond the constitutional reach of this Court.”
The City Attorney’s Office also argued that the subpoenas violate the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Hegarty ruled that the subpoenas did not rise to the level of “commandeering” state or local governments into the service of a federal agency.
“This review concerns a discrete request for information, not a law that foists a mandatory, ongoing disclosure program onto the Sheriff’s Department whenever it comes into contact with a particular class of persons” Judge Hegarty stated. “If such subpoenas become a regular occurrence, then some day a federal court may have a more difficult decision, but this is not that day. As the Sheriff notes, this is a unique process in the history of ICE.”
It is still unclear if Denver will appeal the ruling. In a statement to CBS4, City Attorney Spokesperson Ryan Luby said, “We just learned of the decision Monday. We are still evaluating next steps.”
ICE Officials first contacted the Denver Sheriff Department last year to request jail release notifications for the four inmates.
Under Colorado law, jails are not required to notify ICE ahead of an inmate’s release. The Denver Sheriff Department has a policy to fax a notification to ICE when an inmate enters the release process. The policy is enforced at ICE’s request.
ICE officials claim the Denver Sheriff Department is not giving them enough notice to take inmates into custody. Jail officials are not allowed to facilitate the transfer of an inmate into ICE custody. In many cases, ICE officials will wait in the jail lobby until the inmate is released.
“On the three inmates released, ICE received 48 minutes notice on Mr. Torres-Ibarra, one-hour and 48 minutes notice on Mr. Alvarez-Pacheco and two-hour and two-minutes notice on Mr. Ramires,” said Ryan Luby, spokesperson for the Denver Attorney’s Office.
In the petition filed in February, ICE said they were notified at 1:18 p.m. that one inmate would be released between 1:20 p.m. and 3:20 p.m. that same day. The agency claims ICE personnel were not able to immediately and safely respond in that window of time.
In December, ICE criticized Colorado law after an undocumented immigrant was released from the Arapahoe County Jail and later arrested and charged with attempted murder. The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office tells CBS4 they notified ICE before the inmate was released from custody.