Keys sheriff: Nothing to ACLU claims of illegally jailing immigrants


The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office this week responded to claims this month by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida that it’s illegally detaining immigrants on allegations they are unlawfully in the U.S. by denying any wrongdoing currently at the jails.

Sheriff Rick Ramsay was singled out by name by the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and LatinoJustice, in a Dec. 4 announcement that accused his agency of allowing his department to use an out-of-date form to hold detainees.

Stopping short of admitting a prior single mistake, Ramsay spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin said there is no story behind the allegations.

“Any issues we may have had were taken care of,” Herrin said. “We’re not doing what they say we’re doing right now. There is no current issue involved here. There is no story here.”

Herrin said the office would not discuss the ACLU’s claims in detail.

“We have not heard back from Sheriff Ramsay yet, and have no immediate plans to request a meeting from the sheriff, although we have communicated our availability to the sheriff should he have any questions or concerns related to our letter,” ACLU of Florida staff attorney Amien Kacou said in an email this week. “We are continuing to closely monitor immigration enforcement practices in Monroe County with our coalition partners.”

Monroe County jails currently house about 60 federal inmates for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the sheriff said.

The ACLU said Dec. 4 that Ramsay’s staff was relying on an old form to hold immigrants rather than a court order or a judge’s warrant.

“An immigration detainer (or ‘immigration hold’) is not a court order or judicial warrant and provides no legal authority to continue holding an individual in custody,” the ACLU lawyers wrote. “An immigration detainer is simply a request by a federal immigration agency that a local jail continue to detain an individual after he or she would otherwise be released in order to allow the agency to take custody of that individual.”

When the accusation first came out this month, Ramsay said he hadn’t heard of it and would respond after reviewing the material.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen