Staff says all Hispanic men in Ascension Parish Jail are held for ICE
BATON ROUGE, La. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana today sued the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office for unlawfully jailing 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.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ramon Torres, a U.S. citizen who was placed on a “fugitive hold” and detained for four days by the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, despite the fact that he possessed a Louisiana driver’s license, a U.S. passport, and a social security card. 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.
“Ramon Torres was held in jail for four days simply because he has brown skin and a Latino name,” said Katie Schwartzmann, ACLU of Louisiana legal director. “This is racial profiling, which is unconstitutional and deeply harmful to our communities. What happened to Mr. Torres is inexcusable. Locking people up based on race or ethnicity is antithetical to our most cherished American values.”
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 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, 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.
“The increasing national rhetoric of fear and racism around immigration is tearing apart our local communities,” Schwartzmann said. “We’re suing on Mr. Torres’ behalf to stop these unconstitutional practices and to uphold the basic civil rights of all people.”
“Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office is tasked with enforcing the law and protecting our community; however, they have violated our most sacred law, the Constitution, in order to attack our own citizens based on an extreme and racist anti-immigrant agenda,” said James Bullman, cooperating counsel with the ACLU of Louisiana.
The lawsuit is filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. Mr. Torres is represented by James Bullman of the Bullman Law Firm as cooperating counsel with the ACLU, as well as ACLU of Louisiana attorneys Katie Schwartzmann and Bruce Hamilton.