Immigrant’s Unlawful Detention: Who’s at Fault?

Monroe County Detention Center Intake/Release Area, Sergeant’s Office [photo: MCSO website]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard…….

What everyone knew was that Osman Torres Huete was going to be deported. His family had posted the $1000 cash bail for his release, but at any time during the next two days Border Patrol was going to pluck Osman out of the county jail on Stock Island and send him back to Honduras.

However, when, against all odds, Mr. Torres Huete’s immigration lawyer, Reggie Smith, arrived at the jail on July 8th to challenge her client’s “unlawful detention” an embarrassing situation came to light:  There was no trace of the $1000 cash bond that had been paid by his family on the 6th of July.  A $1000 check was hastily written on an MCSO bank account to replace Osman’s cash bond and he was subsequently released.

SEE RELATED:  IMMIGRATION: Damed if you Do, Damned if you Don’t

The Monroe County Sheriff ordered an internal affairs investigation. This week we received a copy of those findings.

The IA Report explains it like this: The $1000 in cash was paid into an electronic machine located in the jail lobby. Touchpay’s [the private company that manages the machine] system did show the payment, but the company had failed to notify the proper parties at the Sheriff’s office, so Osman was mistakenly kept in jail until his attorney showed up two days later.

We’ve published the full IA report below, but first, there are a few questions raised by this official version of events:

First, during those two days, jail personnel told [and texted] the Torres Huete family they knew that Osman’s bail had been paid but that he could not be released due to a request by Border Patrol to keep him there. Investigators did not contact the family member [whose name appeared on the bail record]. She would have told them that she had paid the bail using the machine in the jail lobby with the help of an MCSO employee.

Another issue is the claim that Touchpay didn’t inform MCSO that Osman’s bail had been paid. Touchpay confirmed they had indeed sent a notification the day Osman’s bail was paid [July 6th] to a list of MCSO employees. But, according to the IA report, the email distribution list was not “current”.

On July 13th, Jim Painter, IT Director for MCSO, wrote an internal email to several MCSO employees including Sheriff Rick Ramsay. In the email, Painter stated that Touchpay’s July 6th “emails did go to all that were on the list.”

However, on July 26, 2017, Painter emailed the IA investigator Michelle Maxwell, stating that he had checked the firewall and that “we did not see any instances of the email of the 6th being delivered to anyone in our agency.”

Why the contradiction?

And what about all of the other inmates? Were all other inmates who posted bail during the time period Touchpay was using the out-of-date email distribution list also kept in jail for days after their bail was paid?  Or did the problem only arise with inmates who were under the cloud of deportation?

Interestingly, the IA report never mentions the central question raised by Osman Torres Huete’s attorney: What is MCSO’s policy when it comes to cooperating with immigration detainer holds at the Monroe County jail?

A legitimate question on the minds of many is: To what extent, if any, was MCSO’s failure to release Osman, after his bail was paid, related to avoiding a conflict with ICE — one of the jail’s largest patrons?

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14 thoughts on “Immigrant’s Unlawful Detention: Who’s at Fault?

  1. For me, the $1,000 bail part of the story, which seems to be the story, is hilarious, keystone sheriff bad behavior, while the illegal immigrant part of the story is maudlin, redundant, whining.

    We now know, thanks to the blue paper, that Sheriff Ramsay’s “illegal immigrant policy” is driven my federal funding he gets for housing federal inmates, and that for Sheriff Ramsay federal funding trumps US laws, blue paper reports, feelings of the detainees’ family members, and feelings of some blue paper readers, as it appears other blue paper readers think all illegal immigrants should be locked up and deported.

    It also appears, despite the adverse blue paper publicity in the court of public opinion, Sheriff Ramsay does not care one mullet wrapper what the blue paper publishes about illegal immigrant detainees.

    I keep wondering why the two immigration lawyers, whom the blue paper featured in past blue paper illegal immigrant detainee articles, did not put Sheriff Ramsay in federal court, if said lawyers were so sure federal laws had been violated by Sheriff Ramsay’s deputies?

    I keep wondering why the ACLU has not put Sheriff Ramsay in federal court?

    I keep wondering why the blue paper has not put Sheriff Ramsay in federal court under some federal whistle-blower law? Arnaud and Naja Girard have litigated a number of lawsuits pro se in the US trial and appellate courts; they know that legal terrain and they are as good at it, or better, than any practicing attorneys in the Florida Keys, including the two lawyers interviewed in earlier illegal immigrant detainee articles.

    Meanwhile, if the detainees are illegal under US law, they get a free pass, get to stay in America, because Sheriff Ramsay’s deputies, during the normal course of their duties as law enforcement officers, learned the illegal immigrants were illegal immigrants and reported that to Border Patrol/ICE, whose job it is to enforce federal laws against illegal immigrants?

    I’m sorry, but this former Alabama practicing attorney, who often has been accused of being a bleeding heart liberal, just can’t seem to wrap his mind around that defense counsel legal argument.

    1. Silly Sloan,

      What exactly is keeping ICE from doing its job here? These people are not escaping anything. If ICE would like to pursue some civil immigration proceeding against them they have all the tools they need to get that done.

      Surely a former lawyer is able to understand the concept that the Sheriff must obey the law?

      Interestingly, an Arizona Judge has just been convicted of criminal contempt for disobeying a judicial order to stop violating the rights of foreign-born persons in his County.

      Our Sheriff is not going to go that far – although the federal government has put him in a difficult position.

      I’m hearing that policies are changing over at the jail thanks to our reporting and the work of Reggie Smith.

      1. Surely a newspaper journalist with your political experience, Naja, is not surprised a sheriff puts that much federal funding ahead of everything else. He has told his deputies not to report illegal immigrants they come across in the course of their jobs as law enforcement officers not to call in Border Patrol and/or ICE?

        If not,I look forward to you and Arnaud, the ACLU, the local immigration lawyers, the South Florida US Attorney, US Attorney General Sessions and President Trump prosecuting Sheriff Ramsay in federal court :-).

        1. Sloan,
          Pay attention. This is about detainer hold requests that are not accompanied by the constitutionally required judicial warrant or order. Federal law states that no one (legally) can establish law or policy that would prohibit sharing information. Sheriff’s deputies (or anyone) can call Border Patrol or ICE all day long and share their hunches and no one is saying that is not legal. If ICE is interested it needs to proceed in accordance with the law. The Florida Sheriff’s Association (and apparently our Sheriff now too) recognizes that it is not legal to hold people longer than the constitution allows. It is considered a second arrest to hold people in jail after they have been released by a local Judge or have paid the bail required by the local Judge. As you know there are constitutional requirements that accompany an arrest to make it legal. Again: nothing is keeping ICE from doing their job in accordance with the federal laws that do indeed recognize constitutional requirements. Defendants then have rights and defenses – some of those defenses lead to being given legal status and other times the outcome is deportation. The Sheriffs across Florida get it Sloan – why don’t you?

  2. All I would like to see is that ALL illegals are deported. I do not care if the sheriff , chief Lee or ice deports them. If holding them brings the sheriff more money than actual cost then leave him alone. Is there any good reason to let illegals stay ?

    Just maybe because they will work cheaper makes it OK.

    If and when ice really wants them they will come do the job. Just maybe letting the sheriff pick them for them is cheaper. Illegals are not that hard to find if you really try.

  3. I have a question as to what he was arrested for ? And why would that bond be paid back ? The purpose of a bond is to insure you will show up in court so you can stay out of jail till trial.

    Some how I think the sheriff perhaps calls all suspected persons to see if wanted. And yes if wanted then it is a new arrest.

    Sounds like a scam to take the bond money with no risk as if deported will not go to trial on the original charge.

    I do have an idea that seems to be legal. Go back to the days of BOUNTY HUNTING and simply publish list of name and photos. Maybe at $100 each deputies would actively go after them.

    Simple truth is they are taking jobs illegally from the legal citizens. Deport the illegals and the demand for help goes up and that raises wages. Also we need to go after who employed them. Just maybe IRS would like to talk to them.

    1. He was arrested for not having a driver’s license. Undocumented immigrants are prohibited from obtaining driver’s licenses in Florida (and most but not all states) and many of them – unfortunately – drive anyhow.

      This particular person now has an immigration application pending. I would guess Border Patrol did not rush to the jail to pick him up that day because he had not violated any of the federal criminal laws and because his state crime was not one of the more violent types – although driving without a license means driving without insurance which is not good at all for everyone involved – if there is a crash.

      Not being documented is not a crime. Deportation proceedings are not criminal and there are civil defenses that allow them to remain in the US and become documented in some cases.

      The question is should they sit in a jail cell (causing hardship to them and their families – many have close relationships with US Citizens and blood relatives who are US citizens) while that case is pending or should the government come up with something more well thought out to straighten out the mess? Something less costly for families, employers, and the ICE enforcement system?

      In the 1980’s immigration reform included a route to immigrant status for over 4 million illegal aliens. That was during Ronald Reagan’s administration. George Bush was also in favor of legalization.

      Trump’s plan is to kick them all out and bring them back as foreign workers. They would be 100% controlled by their employers through a worker visa program. Now they are talking about no immigration allowed for non-professional workers. They can come work for a contracted period of time but they won’t be able to become permanent residents or citizens. The system will keep them from joining the nation as equals with voting rights etc. (Kinda reminds me of indentured servitude – the precursor to slavery. Our country has been down that road and it was not pretty.)

  4. This still leaves the question of why his bail was refunded. He still faces a serious charge of knowingly driving without a license and could and should get time in jail and fine. I believe it could be up to 1 year.
    I do not feel one bit sorry for his type. What is being overlooked is that type cost me higher insurance because must pay for uninsured. To me that is stealing.

    Him showing no respect for our laws is a great reason to deny him a right to stay.

    I hope Trump manages to get rid of all illegals.

      1. Sorry I misread it.

        So if I am reading this correctly he will not be deported because not wanted for a serious crime. If this is how it works then many will never be deported and can stay even if illegal.

        1. He is applying for legalization of his status. He will have a process to go through. Whether he is allowed to remain and become a documented immigrant will be determined via that process. This is nothing new.

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