When Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez made a snap decision in 2017 to capitulate to Donald Trump's threats and force the county to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, lawyers warned that innocent people would be hurt. The head of the Florida American Civil Liberties Union stood outside county hall and warned Gimenez that ICE was going to wrongfully detain some folks.
Now, there's ample evidence the predictions were fulfilled. Multiple South Floridians have sued law-enforcement agencies in Miami and the Florida Keys, alleging they were held in jail for ICE even though they were American citizens and not subject to deportation. Others have sued after paying bail and being held anyway. Here's a running list of South Floridians who've sued to challenge what they say are unconstitutional actions by ICE under Trump:
According to the legal complaint, the plaintiff, Garland Creedle, was born in Honduras but held U.S. citizenship because his father was an American citizen when Creedle was born. (This is the same law that allowed Ted Cruz to run for president despite having been born in Canada.) Creedle came to the United States from Honduras in 2015; ICE tried to deport him April 28 of that year. But two days later, an immigration judge ruled he was an American citizen and terminated those proceedings.
This past March 12, Creedle was arrested on an alleged domestic violence charge. It was dropped and never prosecuted. But when the county fingerprinted him, an ICE detainer popped up onscreen, claiming there was a "biometric confirmation" that he was a "removable alien" under U.S. law. The county threw him in jail despite the fact that he'd committed no crime.
"The detainer did not allege probable cause to believe that Mr. Creedle had committed any crime," the lawsuit says. "Nor did the detainer form state facts amounting to an individualized determination that there was probable cause to believe that Mr. Creedle was removable from the United States, or that there was reason to believe that Mr. Creedle posed a risk of flight. The detainer listing Mr. Creedle as a subject was not supported by a warrant or any other probable cause determination by a detached and neutral judicial officer. Nor did it include any individualized assessment of Mr. Creedle’s risk of flight."
Documents attached to the lawsuit show that Creedle clearly told Miami-Dade County that he was an American citizen. But the county let him spend the night of March 13, 2017, behind bars anyway. According to the suit, Creedle posted bond, but was still forced to spend a night in jail before officials interviewed him, realized they'd screwed up, and let him out.
Creedle is now suing for violations of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unlawful searches and seizures, and the 14th Amendment, which gives all U.S.-born or naturalized citizens the same rights as all others. Creedle also alleges the county broke Florida's false imprisonment law too.
ICE, Miami-Dade County, and other parties in the suit have been fighting to get the case tossed since Creedle filed last year. While Williams dismissed many of Creedle's claims, she did rule that Creedle's core allegations — that the county and ICE violated his Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, for example — are valid and can move forward. Williams wrote that Creedle has "sufficiently alleged a constitutional violation" occurred in Miami-Dade last year, and that "he has plausibly alleged the County was not authorized by federal Iaw to arrest him for a civil immigration violation. Therefore, because he was arrested without probable cause of a crime, the County violated his Fourth Amendment rights."
The suit is not over, however. It will likely continue winding through the courts for another few months. But the ACLU yesterday issued a press release celebrating the procedural victory.
“Miami Dade County’s policy of blindly agreeing to all ICE detainer requests is unconstitutional,” Florida ACLU staff attorney Amien Kacou said in a media release. “When local law enforcement fulfills warrantless ICE detainer requests, they violate the trust of the communities they are supposed to protect. The County should not be allowed to escape legal responsibility for turning its back on its community and supercharging the Trump administration’s reckless anti-immigrant machine.”
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And now, a group of immigrant-rights activists has hit the county with a class-action lawsuit, after multiple people were kept in jail on ICE detainers after forking over bond money. The groups — the Florida Immigrant Coalition and WeCount! — held a 2 p.m. news conference today to announce the suit, which the Miami Herald first reported earlier today.
“Miami-Dade County has taken it upon themselves to hand over immigrants with ICE detainers, including many first-time offenders," the Florida Immigrant Coalition's executive director, Maria Rodriguez, said in today's release. "These people are being held for longer, are often unable to post bond or be reunited with their families. It doesn’t matter how minor the offense is. Littering, loitering or driving without a license is all it takes to get deported. Regardless of what they are charged with, the County has a duty to respect their constitutional rights.”
In the new suit, the immigrant groups argue that ICE detainers constitute unconstitutional, new "arrests" separate from the charges that send people to the jail in the first place. Courts across the nation have largely supported this idea. The suit says 882 people in 2017 and 219 as of this past February 2 have been held in Miami-Dade jails on ICE detainers, but ICE has not arrested all 1,101 detained individuals.
The two plaintiffs in the suit are referred to only by their initials, C.F.C. and S.C.C. According to the legal complaint, S.C.C. owned a landscaping business that employed more than a dozen people — until he was arrested last month, S.C.C. had obtained both commercial and standard driver's licenses, but on June 6, the suit says, Miami-Dade Police arrested him on charges of driving with a suspended license and driving without proper licensure. He remained in jail for more than a month before a county judge reduced his bail to just $1 per charge — $2 in total.
S.C.C. paid the bail July 20. But Miami-Dade didn't let him out of jail — he remains in custody on an ICE detainer.
C.F.C., meanwhile, is an immigrant who runs a small local farm that supplies Homestead bodegas with vegetables. The suit says she has eight children: Three of them — aged 11, 7, and 5 — are American citizens.
On May 12, 2018, she was shopping at a Homestead BJ's with her pregnant daughter and 5-year-old son when she got into a fender-bender. She says the drivers in the other car immediately screamed, "Go back to Mexico!" before someone called the cops. Homestead Police arrested C.F.C. for driving without a license.
C.F.C.'s family paid her bond that day, and she says Miami-Dade jail officials told her she'd be released at 4 p.m. that day. Instead, C.F.C. was held on an immigration detainer, placed in ICE custody, and now awaits deportation in the Broward Transitional Center, a privately run, for-profit detention facility in Pompano Beach designed to hold "low-level," noncriminal ICE detainees.
Peter Sean Brown was born in Philadelphia and is a U.S. citizen.
But that fact apparently didn't matter to Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay, whose deputies illegally held Brown in a jail overnight because they thought he should be deported to Jamaica, a country where he's never lived, according to a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed today in Miami federal court. He was also forced to spend time in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Krome Service Processing Center.
"I am and have always been a citizen of the United States," Brown says in a video the ACLU released online today as part of the second major ACLU lawsuit accusing a South Florida police department of trying to deport an American citizen.
The first one began soon after Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez in January 2017 agreed to begin imprisoning ICE detainees to please President Trump. Garland Creedle, an American who was born in Honduras, said in a lawsuit that he was wrongfully held overnight in Miami at ICE's request. A judge recently ruled that Miami-Dade County can be held liable for the mistake.
In an unrelated case, immigrants who were detained in Miami-Dade jails after posting bail, have also sued the mayor. Immigrant-rights activists estimate that honoring ICE detainers cost Miami-Dade County an additional $12.5 million in 2017 alone.
Brown, age 50, was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in nearby New Jersey before moving to the Florida Keys roughly a decade ago, the lawsuit says. In what the ACLU calls a "stark example of what can go wrong when local law enforcement does ICE’s bidding," Brown arrived at the Monroe Sheriff's Office voluntarily in April 2018 after violating probation for what he calls a "low-level, marijuana-related" offense. Brown expected to do a short stint in jail.
He says the sheriff's office sent his fingerprints to the FBI as part of a routine jail-booking procedure. Then, instead of releasing him, the cops told him that the FBI had sent his fingerprints to ICE and that the deportation agency had placed a "detainer request" on him. (This meant ICE had asked the Monroe Sheriff's Office to hold Brown for 48 hours so the deportation force could pick him up.) ICE said he was supposed to be sent to Jamaica — a country he'd visited only for one day on a cruise. Otherwise, he says he's never been to the island, let alone been a Jamaican citizen.