U.S. Citizen Detained and Targeted for Deportation by ICE

[Content Note: Nativism.]

Peter Brown is a U.S. citizen who was born in Philadelphia. But when he turned himself into the Monroe County [Florida] Sheriff's Office for a minor probation violation, he was held in custody for weeks, because the Monroe County Sheriff's Office is collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to facilitate deportations. When Peter Brown turned himself in, they sent his information to ICE, who asked them to detain him, because has the same name as an immigrant that ICE wants deported to Jamaica.

The ACLU, ACLU of Florida, and Southern Poverty Law Center have brought a case against Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsey for violating Brown's Fourth Amendment rights, and they put together this video explaining the incredible facts of the case.

Video description: Peter Brown, a middle-aged thin Black man, appears onscreen. He reads: "To Whom It May Concern: I'm writing a formal statement to complain and inform that I've been wrongly accused and threatened with deportation from ICE. I am and have always been a citizen of the United States."

Image of Brown beside a copy of the formal grievance from which he was reading. Text onscreen: "A Florida jail detained Peter Brown, a U.S. citizen born in Philadelphia, so that he could be deported to Jamaica."

Video of Brown at home in his kitchen. Text onscreen: "In April 2018, Peter had turned himself in to Monroe County for violating probation for a marijuana-related offense. Instead of being released quickly, Peter was held in jail because ICE wanted to deport him."

Brown appears onscreen. He says: "I did not even realize what ICE was at the time, and, reading through it, I realized it had something to do with immigration. And, at that point, I made a comment of, 'There must've been a mistake.'"

Image of Brown. Text onscreen: "ICE had mistaken Peter for someone with the same name."

Video of Brown at home on his porch. Text onscreen: "Even though Peter repeatedly told the jail he is a U.S. citizen, and jail records confirmed his citizenship, Monroe County kept Peter behind bars."

Brown appears onscreen. He says: "The guard mocked me, singing the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, with the reference of, 'West Philadelphia born and raised,' because I had told him I was from Philadelphia. So he decides that, rather than do anything to help me, he thought that was funny and decided to mock me with that."

Video of Brown at work in a restaurant kitchen. Text onscreen: "Peter was released only after his roommate sent his birth certificate to ICE."

Image of Brown, seguing into image of prison cells. Text onscreen: "Peter is not alone: 17 Florida sheriffs, including Monroe County's, participate in an ICE pilot program that pays the counties $50 for each immigrant who they re-arrest for ICE."

Image of ICE officer. Text onscreen: "ICE frequently asks local jails to hold U.S. citizens and others who are not subject to removal, violating their Fourth Amendment rights."

Image of man with hands cuffed behind his back. Text onscreen: "The ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center are now suing the Monroe Country Sheriff."

Brown appears onscreen. He says: "I would never have expected it in a million years, that this would happen — and I can tell you it's not a good feeling. And with policies like this in order and people implementing them like that, it was only going to continue. There has to be a stop at some point, before it becomes all of us."

Logos of the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center.
At the Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker details Brown's case, the resultant lawsuit, and the collusion between sheriff's offices and ICE:
"I am, and have always been, a citizen of the United States," Brown said in a video produced by the American Civil Liberties Union and published Monday.

These facts appeared not to sway law enforcement officials, who told him that ICE was preparing to deport him to Jamaica — "a country where he has never lived and knows no one," according to a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Los Angeles-based law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The suit accuses Richard A. Ramsey, Monroe County's sheriff, of unlawfully arresting and detaining a U.S. citizen, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and the right to be free from false imprisonment, as Florida law guarantees.

Monroe is among more than a dozen Florida counties that in January 2018 entered a new arrangement with ICE under what are called "Basic Ordering Agreements." They stipulate that the federal agency compensate sheriffs to the tune of $50 for extending the detention of "criminal aliens," as the National Sheriffs' Association put it in a statement. The ACLU argues that the set-up has created a financial motive for sheriffs to execute every single detainer request they receive, despite countervailing evidence. This approach negates basic principles of policing, such as probable cause, the ACLU reasons, and turns people like Brown into collateral damage.

"Nobody should have to endure what he endured," the complaint maintains. "He was kept in jail — away from his family, friends, and work — solely to facilitate his illegal deportation from the United States. The Sheriff's Office ignored his pleas for weeks, mocked him, and led him to believe that he would soon find himself in a Jamaican prison. He suffered severe anxiety, fear, and trauma in the process."

...Brown is hardly the only U.S. citizen to face the threat of deportation. A Syracuse University study published in 2013 used ICE records to determine that the agency had placed detainers on 834 U.S. citizens over just a four-year period.

But the details of Brown's case stand out, said Spencer Amdur, an ACLU attorney on the case.

"It's particularly stark just how many indications the sheriff had that Peter Brown was a U.S. citizen," Amdur said in an interview with The Washington Post. "It doesn't happen in every case that not only is the person telling everybody he can find and filing written complaints, but the sheriff's own records have his citizenship and birthplace. Peter was very assiduous."
There is much more at the link, including Brown's disclosure that he was particularly afraid of the threat to be deported to Jamaica, because he is gay, and Jamaica remains violently homophobic. Brown also lost his job because of the weeks-long detention.

This is utterly contemptible and terrifying. It is also the inevitable consequence of a vile nativist agenda, financially incentivizing nativist policing, the dehumanization of immigrants, and a contempt for the rule of law among its enforcers.

What is even more troubling is that Donald Trump and the Republican Party are busily stacking the courts, so that people like Peter Brown and his advocates will increasingly find no remedy to the gross violation of their rights.

And, as Brown pointedly notes, that could be any of us.

[H/T to Aphra_Behn.]

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