APSO sued for detaining U.S. citizen because he is Latino; Sheriff reponds

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BATON ROUGE, La. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana Wednesday sued the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office claiming deputies unlawfully jailed a U.S. citizen for four days due to a policy of detaining Latinx or Hispanic people for immigration review without regard to their actual immigration status. An hour after the group sent out a news release about the lawsuit, the sheriff responded.

Sheriff Bobby Webre said in a statement Wednesday afternoon, he was made aware of the lawsuit for the first time by a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana (ACLU).

Sheriff Bobby Webre’ statement about the ACLU lawsuit is below:

“At 1:41 p.m. this afternoon, I was made aware for the first time of a press release issued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana (ACLU) that a lawsuit was filed against my office in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana,” said Sheriff Bobby Webre.

“While I have yet to be served this lawsuit, I dispute these press claims by ACLU lawyers and will offer a rigorous defense in court,” he added.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ramon Torres, a U.S. citizen the ACLU of Louisiana said was placed on a “fugitive hold” and detained for four days by the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office. The group claims Torres was detained despite the fact that he possessed a Louisiana driver’s license, a U.S. passport, and a social security card. They went on to say that when Torres asked why he was being held for so long, he was told by staff that every Hispanic person in the jail is detained for ICE.

The ACLU of Louisiana said in August 2018, Torres was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. According to the Ascension Parish court’s policies, Torres should have been released from jail the next morning. However, the group said the Sheriff’s Office refused to release him, citing suspicion that he was in the country unlawfully, despite the fact that Torres had a U.S. passport, a Louisiana driver’s license, and a social security card – and despite a court order for his release. After four days, they said Torres was finally released after a friend hired a lawyer who went to court to seek his release.

The lawsuit, which asserts violations of Torres’ constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, asks the court to declare the actions of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office unconstitutional and to award Torres compensatory and punitive damages.

You can read the lawsuit here.

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