Florida Man Files Lawsuit Claiming He Was Detained Illegally for Being Born in Jamaica

Josh Dawsey/The Washington Post via AP, Pool

By Isabelle Brady

OCALA, FL– Florida resident Neville Brooks is suing the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in the wake of his detention there, claiming that the MCSO unlawfully detained him on behalf of ICE simply because he is foreign-born.

In August 2020, Brooks was detained by the MCSO on a misdemeanor battery charge. Despite his family posting his $100 bail, MCSO held him for an additional night on behalf of ICE.

According to Brooks’ lawsuit, ICE had not issued a detainer or a warrant for him. In fact, the lawsuit said, a federal immigration officer told multiple county officials that Brooks wasn’t subject to a request to be detained based on his immigration status.

Brooks claims that no one at the MCSO discussed his citizenship or immigration status with him, either. He is a lawful permanent resident, originally born in Jamaica.

Brooks’ lawsuit, filed on his behalf by American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Florida, Southern Poverty Law Center and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, accuses the sheriff’s office of having a discriminatory policy of profiling foreign-born individuals and referring them to ICE even if they are American citizens, lawful permanent residents like Brooks, or otherwise live lawfully in the country.

Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that the MCSO violated state law against false imprisonment and his constitutional rights through his unlawful detainment.

Brooks was also diagnosed with COVID-19 in a hospital emergency room five days after his belated release.

A staff attorney at the SPLC says that Brooks’ treatment at the hands of the MCSO is exactly why local law enforcement should stay out of immigration enforcement.

“The actions of the sheriff and his deputies provide a stark illustration of just how dangerous it is to engage local law enforcement in immigration matters,” said Victoria Mesa-Estrada, senior staff attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project.

Mesa-Estrada added, “It is clear that Mr. Brooks was profiled and targeted as a result of their perceptions of him, not because of his immigration status.”

The MCSO has a Warrant Service Officer agreement with ICE, which allows local law enforcement to hold people on ICE’s behalf.

According to an ACLU press release, “Florida sheriffs and ICE claim that those agreements shield counties from liability even when they violate the Constitution.”

AP News reports that Sgt. Paul Bloom said the MCSO hadn’t yet been served with the lawsuit, so he could not comment. Bloom also said in an email that Florida law requires the sheriff’s office to use its “best efforts to support the enforcement of federal immigration law.”

AP News also reports that Brooks’ lawsuit seeks “undisclosed financial damages and an order barring the sheriff’s office from detaining people for immigration enforcement merely because they are born outside the U.S.”

The ACLU said the case, Brooks v. Woods, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.


About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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