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Judge rules southwestern Minnesota county making unlawful immigrant arrests

Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota District Court Judge Gregory Anderson issued a temporary restraining order and injunction Friday, Oct. 19, against Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening in a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota on an issue of jailing immigrants, an ACLU press release states

The ACLU sued Nobles County in southwestern Minnesota this year saying Wilkening and the county are violating Minnesota law by refusing to release some immigrants from the county jail when they post bond or otherwise should be released, then re-arresting them for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

The ACLU said Wilkening doesn't have the authority to re-arrest people and detain them on behalf of ICE.. The judge's order requires Wilkening to release people when they are eligible for release under Minnesota law and the Minnesota and U.S. constitutions.

If they are re-arrested and placed in federal custody, an ICE officer must do it, the judge ruled.

Nobles County, home to a high immigrant population, has a contract to house ICE detainees.

"We are pleased the court acted quickly and decisively to issue this temporary restraining order against the Nobles County Sheriff," ACLU-MN Executive Director John Gordon said in the release. "Every day immigrants have been at risk of unlawful arrest because of the sheriff's egregious behavior.

"As courts have held over and over, Minnesotans have constitutional rights regardless of their immigration status," Gordon said. "When sheriffs flout the law and try to act as federal immigration officials, it not only harms our community but it also violates the law. This unlawful behavior needs to end immediately — not only in Nobles County but across the state.

"This order sends a clear message that these actions will not be tolerated, and provides immediate relief to all immigrants in Nobles County. We look forward to making that relief permanent."

Anderson specifically held in his order that "there is a substantial likelihood" that the plaintiffs will win when the case comes to trial. That trial is anticipated to occur early next spring.

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