ICE Detains American Citizen, Attempts to Deport Him to Jamaica

By Shani Saxon Dec 05, 2018

For one Florida resident, a minor parole violation turned into a nightmare that saw him jailed for weeks. Peter Sean Brown, an American born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, turned himself in to the sheriff’s office in Monroe County, Florida, in April 2018 after violating probation on a marijuana-related offense, The Washington Post reports. 

Monroe County is one of 17 townships in Florida that entered a collaboration agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) back in January 2018. Basic Ordering Agreements (BOA) state that “ICE promises to pay local sheriffs $50 for every immigrant they hold and turn over to ICE, for up to 48 hours of detention,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Brown thought he was facing a slap on the wrist when he submitted his fingerprints for a “routine book-in procedure” on April 5, according to The Post. His prints were sent to both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and ICE for verification of his criminal record. The following day, Brown discovered ICE was deporting him to Jamaica because of unspecified “biometric information.”

This was confusing to the 50-year old restaurant worker because, not only was he born in Pennsylvania, raised in New Jersey and currently living in Florida, but he didn’t even know what ICE was at the time. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the SPLC filed a lawsuit on Brown’s behalf on Monday (December 4) in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida Key West Division. The suit refers to Jamaica as "a country where he has never lived and knows no one," and also challenges the Florida sheriff for unlawful detainment as part of the BOA.

"Multiple federal courts have ruled that it is unconstitutional for local law enforcement agencies to keep people detained in jail once their criminal cases have ended, in order to give ICE a chance to pick them up and deport them," the SPLC says in a breakdown of the case. According to The Post, "The ACLU argues that the setup has created a financial motive for sheriffs to execute every single detainer request they receive, despite countervailing evidence."

In a video produced by the ACLU and SPLC, Brown says that instead of finding ways to help him, Florida guards mocked him by singing the theme song for the TV show "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," which includes the lyrics, "In West Philadelphia born and raised…."

"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," the lawsuit states. "He suffered severe anxiety, fear and trauma in the process." Brown was finally released—three weeks after being booked—when his roommate sent a copy of his birth certificate to ICE. Per the Post at press time, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office had not yet filed a formal response to the lawsuit.