1 MONTH A SLAVE. From [HERE] and [HERE] A Black man is suing a local sheriff’s office, saying he was unlawfully detained and nearly deported to Jamaica after Immigration and Customs Enforcement confused him with someone else. [federal complaint [PDF]
Peter Sean Brown, a U.S. citizen who was born in Philadelphia, filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. He claims that authorities ignored his attempts to identify himself as they threatened him with deportation. In the process authorities mocked and demeaned him with ridicule and “jokes.”
In a video released by the ACLU on Monday, Brown described the experience as traumatizing.
“I felt totally, totally powerless,” he says in the video. “I went from angry, because nobody was listening to me, to a really frightful moment because I was literally told at one moment that I was to sign this paper, that they were tired of listening to me lying, and that I had three days and I was being sent back to Jamaica.”
When he showed up at a Florida sheriff’s office for violating probation after testing positive for marijuana, he was told he would be detained and flagged for deportation — to the island of Jamaica — based on a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday.
Brown repeatedly told officers at the Monroe County Sheriff's Office in Florida that he was a U.S. citizen, and even offered to show his birth certificate, according to the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.
Brown, 50, had been living in Florida for the last decade, according to the suit.
"Despite his repeated protests to multiple jail officers, his offer to produce proof, and the jail’s own records, the sheriff’s office held Mr. Brown so that ICE could deport him to Jamaica — a country where he has never lived and knows no one," the complaint said.
Brown’s lawsuit argues that the sheriff’s office had enough information to know the ICE hold was incorrect because its own records listed him as being born in Philadelphia. ICE’s report listed the wrong birthdate for Brown and described him as 7 feet tall. Brown is 5 feet, 7 inches tall.
The Sheriff’s inmate file for Mr. Brown confirmed, in multiple places, that he was a U.S. citizen. The file lists his place of birth as “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania” in capital letters. This file was available to jail staff throughout Mr. Brown’s detention. He also had a valid Florida driver’s license.
At the same time, Mr. Brown’s friend and manager at Fogarty’s Restaurant (where he worked), Brooke Lynch, independently learned of his ICE detainer. She had heard that Mr. Brown was in jail, so she checked the Sheriff’s online inmate locator. The website indicated that Mr. Brown had an ICE detainer lodged against him. It also contained a number of discrepancies: It indicated that Mr. Brown was 7 feet tall when, in reality, he is 5 feet, 7 inches tall. And it listed an incorrect birthdate for Mr. Brown, which did not match the detainer form.
Upon learning this, Ms. Lynch called the jail and told the Sheriff’s officers that Mr. Brown was a U.S. citizen, and so they could not hold him on an ICE detainer. She explained that he was born in Philadelphia, and that the jail’s listed birth date for Mr. Brown was wrong. The officers simply told her she should call ICE. They did not ask Ms. Lynch for any details about her serious claim. The officers said they would hold Mr. Brown as long as the detainer remained in effect.
The Sheriff’s officers uniformly refused to help Mr. Brown. They explained that—despite his protests—they would hold him on the ICE detainer unless ICE revoked it. They told him he could try to contact ICE, but that the Sheriff’s Office would not help him, and would instead continue to hold him beyond when he would otherwise be released from custody under state law. 30. In response, Mr. Brown told multiple jail officers that he had a birth certificate at home that proved his citizenship. He offered to ask his roommate to send it to the Sheriff’s Office. The officers told him not to bother, because it would not change anything. They said they would hold him on the ICE detainer no matter what, regardless of his birth certificate.
During his time in jail, the suit alleges the officers mocked him, one telling him "‘everything’s gonna be alright’ in a Jamaican accent."
When Brown tried to tell officers he was born in Philadelphia, one guard sang to him the theme of the 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," where actor Will Smith raps about being "born and raised" in West Philadelphia.
Mr. Brown twice tried to call ICE from the jail, using the phone numbers listed on the detainer form. But he was never able to reach a live person. On one call, he was sent through an endless loop of automated messages, which never allowed him to speak to an actual person. On the other call, the phone just rang and rang, and never reached a person or even an answering machine.
Justice Department guidance does not legally require jurisdictions to honor ICE immigration detainers, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, though Monroe County is one of several in Florida that formally agreed this year to abide by ICE requests in a pact called a Basic Ordering Agreement.
While he was jailed, Brown filed several formal complaints with Sheriff Rick Ramsay [racist suspect in photo] saying he was being falsely accused, according to the suit. He was told it wasn’t up to the sheriff’s office to determine whether he is a U.S. citizen or not, and so the office would leave the matter to ICE.
"I have been wrongly accused and threatened with deportation from ICE," he wrote in one, according to the lawsuit. "I am and have always been a citizen of the United States."
He filed his first written complaint on April 8, 2018. His complaint explained that he was being held pursuant to “a false immigration detainer,” and further stated in unequivocal terms: “I am and have always been a U.S. citizen.”
On April 11, the Sheriff’s officers responded that they would not help him. The entirety of the response read: “Sir, are you asking to go to the law lib[rary?] We can’t advise you on any legal process.”
The Sheriff did nothing to investigate his citizenship. It did not contact ICE to pass along this urgent information, or ask for a review of Mr. Brown’s files. It did not seek any further information from Mr. Brown or anyone else. It simply held Mr. Brown, in violation of his constitutional rights and after he was entitled to release under state law,
After several weeks of pleas and failed attempts to reach ICE by phone while in custody, Brown’s lawsuit states, he attended his court appearance and a judge ordered an end to his detention on the probation violation.
Instead of releasing Brown, the suit claims, the sheriff’s department re-arrested him on the ICE hold before transferring him to the Krome immigrant detention center in Miami. He was released after a friend sent a copy of his birth certificate to ICE.
Brown spent about a month in jail before he was turned over to the Krome immigration detention center in Miami, according to the lawsuit.
If not for the last-minute intervention of a friend who sent a copy of his birth certificate to an ICE agent, Mr. Brown would have been illegally deported because of the Sheriff’s actions.
After Brown was turned over to ICE, agents agreed to look at Brown’s birth certificate as proof of his citizenship, which his roommate emailed over and ICE determined he was in fact a U.S. citizen, according to the suit.
"After confirming that Mr. Brown was a U.S. citizen, ICE hastily arranged for his release from Krome," the suit said. "Before he left, they confiscated all the documents they had given him regarding his impending deportation."
Ramsay said his office was notified in writing by ICE that Brown had a final order of deportation and that his identity had been confirmed via "biometrics," such as fingerprints or other identifying data.
While ICE is not named in the lawsuit, the case takes aim at the relationship some local law enforcement authorities have with the federal agency. In Monroe County, officials sent Brown's fingerprints to the FBI, which then forwarded those fingerprints to ICE, according to the lawsuit.
The following day, an ICE officer sent a detainer request for Brown, asking that the jail hold him for up to 48 hours beyond the time he would have been released, according to the lawsuit. The sheriff's office agreed to that request and rearrested Brown after he appeared in court on April 26 for his probation violation, despite a judge ordering his release, according to the suit.
The lawsuit accuses the sheriff's office of "carelessly and aggressively" arresting people for ICE under what's known as a Basic Ordering Agreement between the two, where the sheriff's office receives $50 for each individual it holds at ICE's request.
The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, claims Brown’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable search and seizure by the government.
Brown's lawyers said his detention caused him to become "severely depressed" and lose his job. The suit asked for the court to award Brown appropriate monetary damages, attorney costs and any other relief the court finds just.
"Mr. Brown was terrified that he could be put on a plane at any moment and deported to Jamaica," the suit said.
It states “Mr. Brown was terrified. As a gay man, he feared that he would be subject to abuse in detention once he arrived in Jamaica. See Human Rights Watch, Jamaica: Unchecked Homophobic Violence, Oct. 21, 2014.”
"It’s shocking and not right that somebody can lose their human rights and have all dignity stripped away simply because someone delivers a piece of paper or signs a form," Brown said in a statement released by the ACLU.
Brown’s story is far from unique.
According to a 2013 study released by Syracuse University, ICE mistakenly issued detainers to 834 U.S. citizens and 28,489 legal permanent residents, or “green card” holders, between 2008 and 2012. The study cast concern on ICE’s ability to quickly detain someone on suspicion alone.
“Having a detainer placed on you, however, even if ICE has mistakenly done so, can have very significant ramifications. Inadequate safeguards exist to prevent such mistakes from happening or to rectify them after they have happened,” the study states.
In an even more egregious case, a New York man named Davino Watson spent three and a half years in detention after being wrongly accused of being in the U.S. illegally in 2008.
Upon Watson’s release, he filed a complaint and was awarded $82,500 in damages. An appeals court in 2017 threw out that ruling, however, determining that the statue of limitation had expired while Watson was still in ICE custody without a lawyer, NPR reported.
“There’s thousands of Americans in the same position as I was,” Watson told New York’s PIX 11 this past spring. “I saw a lot of guys, they had good grounds to fight their case but because they couldn’t read and write, they got deported.”