First court hearing held in ACLU suit against Sheriff

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  • Augustin Ramon, center, confers with his ACLU attorney Daniel Galindo, left, and ACLU legal fellow Elizabeth Ehret after a hearing in Montana 19th Judicial District Court in Libby Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (John Blodgett/The Western News)

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    Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe, left, and Maureen Lennon, his attorney from the Montana Association of Counties, attend a hearing in Montana 19th Judicial District Court Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (John Blodgett/The Western News)

  • Augustin Ramon, center, confers with his ACLU attorney Daniel Galindo, left, and ACLU legal fellow Elizabeth Ehret after a hearing in Montana 19th Judicial District Court in Libby Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (John Blodgett/The Western News)

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    Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe, left, and Maureen Lennon, his attorney from the Montana Association of Counties, attend a hearing in Montana 19th Judicial District Court Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (John Blodgett/The Western News)

The initial hearing in a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union has filed against Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe was held Friday, Nov. 9 in Montana 19th Judicial District Court in Libby.

The ACLU is representing plaintiff Augustin Ramon, 32, of Eureka, a Lincoln County Jail inmate whom they allege Bowe is illegally detaining at the request of federal immigration officials.

Ramon’s counsel is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prohibit Bowe “from relying upon immigration detainers,” a court document states.

Bowe has said that the Sheriff’s Office routinely detains suspects at the request of federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is the source of the detainer in question.

Court documents indicate that Ramon has been in the Lincoln County Jail since Aug. 3, when Eureka Police Officer Grigori Neils arrested him on suspicion of burglary.

The same day of Ramon’s arrest, the jail received a U.S. Department of Homeland Security immigration detainer from the U.S. Border Patrol in Eureka, asking the Sheriff’s Office to hold Ramon because the agency has evidence showing Ramon “either lacks immigration status or notwithstanding such status is removable under U.S. immigration law.”

Such detainers ask jail officials to hold someone for an additional 48 hours after that person would otherwise be released, such as upon posting bail. That time is intended for officials to determine if the person will be taken into custody by federal officials to begin the process of removing the individual from the U.S.

Ramon has dual citizenship in Mexico and France, court documents indicate. He has lived in Montana since April and married Lily McNair May 17 in Flathead County.

According to Neils’ case report, Ramon’s Mexican passport is invalid but his France passport is current. “Ramon’s intention on living here with his wife violates his France passport,” he wrote.

According to an affidavit, Ramon’s wife Lily McNair paid a bail-bond company to post bail against her husband’s $25,000 bond. When a bondsman attempted to post it, jail officials “refused to release Mr. Ramon, even after The Bondsman sought to post the full bail amount, because Mr. Ramon is subject to an Immigration Detainer,” the affidavit states.

Bowe previously told The Western News that upon learning that a 48-hour hold would go into effect upon posting bail, the bondsman did not post it, which is why the 48-hour hold never went into effect and why Ramon remained in jail awaiting a hearing on the felony burglary charge he faces.

Daniel Galindo, an ACLU attorney representing Ramon, argued in court Friday that the detainer is tantamount to an arrest that is not authorized by either state or common law .

“The Sheriff is asserting that the detainer allows them to continue to hold someone when they should be released,” Galindo argued to Judge Matt Cuffe. “[But] they’re not reasonably free to leave — that counts as an arrest.”

Maureen Lennon, an attorney with Montana Association of Counties who is representing Bowe, acknowledged that “the issue of whether a detainer is an arrest is something that’s being litigated all over the country.”

“[But] in this case, in my mind it’s much simpler than that,” she told Cuffe.

Lennon countered that “Mr. Ramon was never arrested even under the plaintiffs argument, because the conditions precedent to his release were not met” — that is, his bond was never posted.

“The argument that he was arrested because he was free to go is inaccurate,” she argued. “He was not free to go. He has never been detained on the detainer.”

“The Sheriff has a lawful right to hold Mr. Ramon on the burglary charge as he has done,” she asserted.

As the hearing ended, Cuffe granted Galindo’s request for more time to reply to a brief the U.S. Department of Justice filed with the court, giving him until 5 p.m. Tuesday to respond.

Once that deadline was met, Cuffe said he anticipated ruling soon after on the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction request.

In addition to those two items, the lawsuit seeks to end the use of immigration detainers for all current and future prisoners in the Lincoln County Jail who are the subject of such detainers, and it seeks compensation for Ramon for what is termed his unlawful incarceration.

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