by Kent Ducote, Key West
Key West: Come as you are!...but have” your papers” on your person at all times.
In June of last year, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Dept detained two Spanish speaking teenagers for…speaking Spanish. They were later released because, apparently, speaking Spanish in the United States of America is not illegal. You know, the first amendment and such protects free speech, whether that speech is English, Spanish, pig-latin or Klingon. That did not stop the MCSD from racially profiling these innocent teens and assuming that they were undocumented. They were not undocumented. [Click here for more on that story.]
Recently, Peter Sean Brown, a Pennsylvania native (that is: BORN in Pennsylvania) was held by MCSD on suspicion of being undocumented. His ancestry is Jamaican. He is an American citizen. He had visited Jamaica once on a cruise ship.
According to the ACLU, “Peter started frantically telling jail officers he was a U.S. citizen and asked to show them his birth certificate. He filed multiple written grievances. He called ICE, but no one ever answered the phone. His manager at work called the jail attesting to Peter’s citizenship.
Jail officers 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.” Officers sang him the theme song to the TV show the Fresh Prince of Bel Air—“West Philadelphia born and raised”—after he repeatedly told them he was from Philadelphia and had no ties to Jamaica.
The ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office for violating Peter’s Fourth Amendment rights. His experience — being locked in jail away from his family, friends, and job to facilitate an illegal deportation — is a stark example of what can go wrong when local law enforcement does ICE’s bidding.”
[Editor's note: Click here for more about Peter Sean Brown's lawsuit and The Blue Paper's exclusive interview with Peter right after it happened.]
Our local tax dollars are now going to be spent defending the indefensible. We appreciate the sheriff’s department’s work on maintaining law and order in our community. Doing ICE’s bidding and creating a police state is NOT in the job description. We ask the MCSD to please not waste our tax dollars on needless lawsuits which are certain to arise from meddling in immigration—an area in which they have no business unless actual criminality is involved.