The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Lincoln County sheriff, alleging that he has illegally detained a man for two months at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Agustin Ramon — who the ACLU says is a 32-year-old resident of Montana with dual citizenship in France and Mexico — was booked in the Lincoln County Jail on Aug. 3 on a burglary charge. When Ramon tried to pay his $25,000 bond, local law enforcement informed him that he would not be released because of an ICE detainer. Two months later, Ramon remains incarcerated.
The ACLU alleges that Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe is violating Montana law by detaining Ramon. Bowe disagrees.
“It’s a bunch of BS,” Bowe told the Beacon on Nov. 1. “The ACLU and this lawsuit do not concern me at all.”
An ICE detainer is a written request to a local jail or law enforcement agency to detain an individual for an additional 48 hours after his or her release date. The extra time allows immigration officials to decide whether to take the individual into federal custody to begin the process of removing the individual from the United States.
Attorneys for the ACLU say there is no legal requirement that local law enforcement comply with a request to hold someone.
“Sheriff Bowe is depriving Mr. Ramon of his liberty without any legal authority,” said ACLU of Montana Legal Director Alex Rate. “Sheriff Bowe’s actions are not only illegal, they also risk undermining the trust between local law enforcement and the community. That makes everyone less safe. We urge Sheriff Bowe to release Mr. Ramon immediately. Our constitution demands nothing less.”
Attorneys for the ACLU, ACLU of Montana and the Border Crossing Law Firm, which filed the lawsuit in Lincoln County District Court on Oct. 31, argue that Bowe is violating multiple articles of the Montana Constitution through the “unreasonable seizure” of Ramon. Attorneys state that Ramon, who has lived in Montana since April 2018, is protected by the state constitution.
“Montana law is clear,” said Shahid Haque, attorney with the Border Crossing Law Firm. “When an immigrant posts bond, they must be released from custody, just like anyone else. Sheriff Bowe must comply with state law.”
Bowe said the ACLU’s position was “not a legitimate concern” and that he would continue to follow the directive from ICE.
“We’ll do whatever (ICE) asks us to do. We’re not a sanctuary county,” Bowe said. “(Ramon) has done something bad and he needs to pay a price for it, and if he’s here illegally, then I’m sure Border Patrol and ICE will do their jobs and ship him out of here.”
The Beacon is awaiting comment from ICE about its investigation into Ramon.
The ACLU’s lawsuit is seeking the release of Ramon as well as compensation for his “false imprisonment.” The ACLU states that other law enforcement agencies in Montana have held people for ICE when they were suspected of being immigrants. In 2017, the ACLU sued Gallatin County in a similar case.