KEY WEST, Fla. — A coalition of immigrant rights groups Monday sued on behalf of a US citizen they allege was illegally detained and almost deported because of an ICE request.
The federal complaint says authorities in Monroe County, Florida, ignored Peter Brown’s repeated statements that he was a US citizen and continued to hold him in response to a detention request from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement even after a judge had ordered his release.
“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 lawsuit says.
“The Sheriff’s Office ignored all the indications that it was illegally detaining Mr. Brown. It 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, so that he could be picked up by ICE and deported from the country.”
Brown, according to the lawsuit, was born in Philadelphia and had only visited Jamaica once for a day on a cruise.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and ICE did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“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 American Civil Liberties Union, one of the organizations representing him.
Brown was detained in April after turning himself in for a probation violation, then eventually transferred from a local jail to the Krome immigrant detention center in Miami, the lawsuit says. He was released from ICE custody after a friend sent a copy of his birth certificate to ICE, according to the suit.
“After confirming that Mr. Brown was a U.S. citizen, ICE hastily arranged for his release from Krome. Before he left, they confiscated all the documents they had given him regarding his impending deportation,” the lawsuit says.