Southern Poverty Law Center, the high-profile Montgomery, Ala.-based nonprofit civil rights group, has filed a lawsuit against Vermilion Parish Sheriff Michael Couvillon for his refusal to release public documents pertaining to possible abuse of detained immigrants.

According to an Associated Press story published on The Advertiser’s website, the Vermilion Parish sheriff is among 15 sheriffs in the state who have so far refused to release the documents requested by SPLC, claiming an exemption from the state’s Public Records Act. SPLC filed public record requests in 63 Louisiana parishes as part of its investigation into immigrant abuse at local detention centers:
While U.S. Immigration, Customs and Enforcement (ICE) can ask state and local agencies to detain individuals following the resolution of traffic, municipal or state criminal charges if it suspects a person has committed a civil immigration violation, federal regulations prohibit the local agencies from holding them beyond 48 hours after the initial charges have been resolved. Despite these regulations, there is concern that local law enforcement agencies in Louisiana, and possibly in other states, regularly use the cover of these ICE “immigration detainers” to hold immigrants for unconstitutionally excessive periods.

“Law enforcement cannot just lock someone up – regardless of race, ethnicity or immigration status – and throw away the key,” said Katie Schwartzmann, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Louisiana office and the individual requesting the documents. “We are prepared to do whatever it takes to view these records and ensure that proper safeguards are in place.”
Read more here and here.

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