Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have tried to deport hundreds of U.S. citizens over the years, with the federal government agreeing just this past October to settle with one U.S. citizen who had been wrongfully detained for $55,000. Now ICE is at it again, nearly deporting U.S.-born Peter Sean Brown to Jamaica, and with the help of a Key West, Florida sheriff’s office that already has a history of harassing immigrants.
”The saga began when Peter reported to the Monroe County Sheriff’s office for violating probation with a low-level, marijuana-related offense,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said. “Instead of quickly releasing him, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office told Peter that they were keeping him locked up to facilitate his deportation. ICE had faxed a request, known as a ‘detainer,’ asking the sheriff to lock Peter up, so it could deport him to Jamaica.”
Brown, according to the ACLU, had never even heard of ICE before. When he protested that he was born in the U.S. and asked to be able to show his birth certificate, the sheriff’s office “ignored him entirely. None of them helped him cancel the detainer or even looked into his claims, even though the jail’s own records listed Peter as a U.S. citizen. Many officers even mocked him, telling him in a Jamaican accent that everything was ‘gonna be alright.’”
The Monroe County Sheriff’s office had already made an unfortunate name for itself, when last year one deputy questioned the immigration status of a man who had just been hit by a car. He was eventually arrested by Border Patrol. The next month, that same deputy was at it again. “Sixteen years you've been in the United States,” he told a man he pulled over for an alleged traffic violation, “and you haven't bothered to do anything to get anything?" He then called Border Patrol on him.
As for Brown, he was in custody by the sheriff’s office for weeks before ICE came for him and transferred him to Miami, where he was just days from deportation to a nation that wasn’t his own before ICE finally agreed to look at his birth certificate. They at last let him go, but left him stranded hours away from Key West.
With the help of the ACLU, Brown is now suing the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and this sort of collaboration could prove pricey for the county, but that would be its own doing. “By facilitating these efforts,” the ACLU said, “local sheriffs are putting themselves on the hook for enormous financial liability. Dozens of them have faced costly litigation and been forced to pay six-figure settlements because of their collaboration with ICE.”
Here’s hoping the same happens for Brown for the misery inflicted on him by his unlawful detention. “I would have never have expected it in a million years that this would happen,” he says in an ACLU video, “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. So there has to be a stop at some point, before it becomes all of us.”