Latinos file lawsuit in Palm Beach County alleging violation of constitutional rights

June 1, 2009
Contact: Madeline Friedman, Coordinator of Media Relations (212) 739-7581

Latinos in Palm Beach County have filed a lawsuit against the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office and the Palm Beach County Jail alleging that the agencies are violating the constitutional rights of Latinos and others residing in the county.

The policies and practices challenged in this lawsuit include:

  • The Sheriff’s Office incarcerates Latinos and others for lengthy periods of time while denying them both their right to post bond and their lawful ability to otherwise challenge their incarceration.
  • The Sheriff’s Office incarcerates Latinos and others in reliance on federal immigration detainers issued by ICE in circumstances for which no statutory or other legal authority exists.
  • The Sheriff’s Office incarcerates Latinos and others in reliance on federal immigration detainers issued by ICE but for far longer than the detainer’s explicit 48 hour time limit, excluding holidays and weekends (“48-hour period”) for such detentions.
  • The Immigration and Customs Enforcement is also named in the lawsuit.

“The practices of these agencies are unlawful and discriminatory and have to be stopped,” said Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a New York-based civil rights organization that operates in Florida. “Our country is a country of laws and you can not simply make up policies and laws as you go.”

The lawsuit charges that the “Sheriff’s Office incarcerates Latinos and other individuals, often for lengthy periods of time, without offering them the opportunity to post bond or otherwise affording them any other means to challenge their incarceration.”

The lawsuit describes that Latinos, even after given bail by the courts, are detained by the Sheriff’s Office in an attempt to determine their immigration status. An ICE detainer, by its own terms, only authorizes the Sheriff’s Office to hold someone 48 hours (excluding holidays and weekends) beyond the time the person would otherwise be released. However, for Latinos for whom an ICE detainer has been placed, the Sheriff’s Office, without lawful authority, denies them an opportunity to post the bail that has been set and incarcerates them beyond the 48 hours permissible pursuant to the ICE detainer.

“The Sheriff’s office can not hold people beyond what the guidelines are according to ICE,” said Foster Maer, LatinoJustice Senior Attorney. “You have to treat people the same no matter what immigration status you think they are. These agencies are not following their own guidelines.”

The lawsuit states that the Sheriff’s office has refused to release the names of people being held under detainer rules.

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