The ACLU of Montana has brought a lawsuit against the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office for their cooperation with ICE (U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement) authorities regarding the honoring of federal immigration detainers.

Legal Director for the Montana chapter of the ACLU, Alex Rate, explained the purpose of the lawsuit.

“What happens on any given day is that somebody is picked up on a criminal charge, they appear before a judge and they post bail and are released pending trial,” began Rate. “In the situation where you may have an immigrant, or who may speak Spanish or have brown skin, they are required to be incarcerated pursuant to what is called a Civil Immigration Detainer issued by ICE or Customs and Border Protection, which are federal agencies.”

Rate said the ACLU opposes such actions because the warrant is not issued by a judge and do not indicate if an actual crime has been committed.

“At the end of the day, you have people incarcerated who are suspected of being here unlawfully or of being undocumented, who are being jailed for no other reason than the Civil Immigration Detainer,” he said. “They can be held for weeks or even months, because they are waiting for their day in court to appear on the state or county based criminal charges, and if they post bail, they would immediately be released to the custody of immigration authorities.”

Rate said the case in question regards Augustine Ramon, his client who is incarcerated in the Lincoln County Jail in Libby.

“He is married to a U.S. citizen in Lake County, and the reality is that these immigration detainers can tear families apart and they impact people all across the spectrum,” he said.

Rate says the Trump administration is taking a much more aggressive posture on immigration detainment than previous administrations.

“That’s impacting people across the board, whether they’re being picked up on criminal charges or being racially profiled by law enforcement or simply being harassed by federal immigration authorities,” he said.

KGVO reached out to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office for a comment, but has not yet received a reply, which will be added to this story.