After being detained for three weeks, a Philadelphia man just barely escaped being deported to Jamaica in a case of mistaken identity.
ICE almost deported Peter Sean Brown, a 50-year-old American citizen born in Philadelphia to Jamaica – a place where he had no family and knew no one.
Brown had gone to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Florida for violating his probation but was then detained and handed over to ICE for final deportation to Jamaica. He is now filing a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office for the inhuman treatment he suffered in detention.
According to the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Brown visited the sheriff’s office because he was accused of violating his probation by testing positive for marijuana.
Jail Officers and Guards Mocked Brown at His Impending Deportation
As soon as officers informed him he would be handed over to ICE for deportation, Brown protested to the sheriff’s office that he was a US citizen and even offered to provide his birth certificate and valid Florida driver’s license among other documents as proof. But detention officers at the sheriff’s office would not listen to him.
During his lockup, Brown recalled how officers mimicked a Jamaican accent to tell Brown he’d be fine back home in Jamaica. And when he insisted he’d never been to Jamaica but was born in Philadelphia, a guard sang a song that actor Will Smith raps about being born and raised in Philadelphia. He filled multiple formal complaints, but Sheriff Rick Ramsay reportedly ignored them all.
The man spent three weeks in jail before he was eventually transferred to the Krome immigration detention center in Miami for final deportation processes. At Krome, agents agreed to examine Brown’s proofs of citizenship when he continued to claim he was a US citizen. Brooke Lynch, his friend and manager at the restaurant where he worked emailed Brown’s birth certificate and driver’s license among other documents before ICE allowed him to go.
According to NBC, Lynch had also conducted a simple search online and checked Brown’s name in an online inmate locator and discovered he had an ICE detainer request against him. But the online information did not match up with the man in jail. The online records did not match Brown’s birth date and listed him as being 7 feet tall when he is 5 foot 7 inches.
In the federal lawsuit, ICE retrieved all documents related to his impending deportation before hastily releasing him after confirmation Brown is an American-born citizen.
Sheriff Says He Lacks the Authority to Release Anyone Detained by ICE
In his reaction to the lawsuit, Ramsay said the ordeal with Brown “was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity by ICE.” He said ICE informed him Brown had a deportation order against him and that he should be held in custody since his biometrics were verified for deportation.
“It is important to also note that when an inmate is held under an ICE matter, I, as sheriff, do not have the legal authority to release that person,” Ramsay said. “Though the sheriff’s office does not investigate immigration matters and while I cannot release detainees under ICE custody, I immediately took action when notified of this matter months ago.”
Ramsay contacted ICE when Brown insisted he was a US citizen, and the immigration agency followed up with the claims until his release from custody. The lawsuit did not mention ICE but accuses the sheriff’s office of receiving $50 for every detainee held at ICE’s request. Ramsay denied the money is for his office, saying it goes directly to the county.
In the lawsuit filed at the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Brown claimed his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. He said he lost his job as a result of the detention at the Monroe County jail and at the ICE custody. His lawyers say he is “severely depressed” at the moment and traumatized at what he went through at the hands of government agents. He is demanding financial compensation from the courts as well as other relief the court deems appropriate.