A Florida man nearly deported to Jamaica is taking the Monroe County sheriff to court after he was held in custody and threatened with deportation at the direction of U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement.
In a lawsuit filed Monday, representatives for Peter Sean Brown say his constitutional rights were violated when he was held in an ICE detention center for days, despite his repeated claims that he is, in fact, a U.S. citizen, the Miami Herald reported. Brown, 50, told each and every employee at the jail he was born in Philadelphia, the lawsuit alleges, but his protests were only met with mockery and ridicule.
“Despite 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 reads.
Brown said he’s only visited the island nation once on a cruise many years ago, so the threat took him by surprise.
The Florida man’s troubles began when he was detained April 5 after turning himself on a probation violation; he’d tested positive for marijuana. Brown said he figured he’d spend a few days in jail then get back to life as usual. However, things went much differently.
After being booked into the Stock Island Detention Center, local authorities sent Brown’s information to ICE, which in turn issued a “detainer request,” or paperwork that asks law enforcement officials to hold an individual for up to 48 hours beyond when they’re due for release so that ICE agents can and come get them, as explained by CNN.
As a result, the lawsuit claims Brown was illegally detained and eventually transferred to the Krome immigrant detention center in Miami. During his lockup, one guard reportedly spoke to Brown in a phony Jamaican accent, while another sang the theme song from 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which mentions main character Will Smith being from West Philadelphia.
It wasn’t until a friend sent a copy of his birth certificate proving his citizenship that Brown was released. However, his attorneys say he’s still traumatized by the experience, as well as the threat of being sent away to a Jamaican prison.
“I would never have expected in a million years that this would happen,” said Brown, in a video released by the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups representing him. “With policies like this and people implementing them like that, it’s only going to continue. There has to be a stop to it at some point before it becomes all of us.”
Brown’s lawsuit names Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay as a defendant and argues that the case highlights major flaws in ICE’s detainment system. It also criticizes local law enforcement authorities for doing the agency’s dirty work. According to The Miami Herald, the controversial practice is part of a federal program that pays counties $50 for each person they hold for ICE.
“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.
The Monroe Country Sheriff’s Office has declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Actual wrongful deportations are far from unknown, as highlighted by the case of Jakadrien Turner, an African-American runaway teenage girl who spent eight months in Colombia after wrongfully being deported from Texas to the South American nation in 2011 despite not speaking Spanish.
Watch more on Brown’s case in the video below.