In August 2020, Neville Christopher Brooks, a legal permanent U.S. resident from Jamaica, was unlawfully detained by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) in Florida — not for any alleged criminal activity or for any legitimate immigration enforcement concerns but solely because he was born in Jamaica.
Although an officer from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed to multiple Marion County employees that Brooks was not subject to any immigration detention request, the sheriff’s office continued his detention long after he posted bond and should have been released.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit against the Marion County sheriff and one of his deputies. It challenges Brooks’ unlawful detention and the MCSO’s discriminatory policy of detaining and referring all foreign-born individuals, or those perceived as foreign-born, to ICE, even if they are American citizens or otherwise lawfully in this country.
The MCSO initially detained Brooks for a misdemeanor, which was later dismissed. After he posted a $100 bond, officers told Brooks that the MCSO was keeping him detained for ICE, even though the federal agency specifically told the sheriff’s office that Brooks was not subject to any immigration detention request. The Marion County resident was held behind bars for an additional night in a crowded jail during the COVID-19 pandemic. Five days later, he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in a hospital emergency room.
The suit contends that the sheriff’s office had no legal basis to detain Brooks once he posted bond. The sheriff and his deputies never discussed his citizenship or immigration status with him, nor did they receive any detainer request or warrant from ICE. They simply profiled him and continued his detention, solely based on his presumed foreign birth, even though jail records showed that he had a valid Social Security number and Florida commercial driver’s license, neither of which he could have gotten unless he was lawfully in the U.S.
The lawsuit seeks damages and injunctive and declaratory relief for Brooks.