The SPLC filed suit in state court after Vermilion Parish (La.) Sheriff Michael Couvillon refused to release public records related to the detention of individuals suspected of being undocumented. The records were requested under the Louisiana Public Records Act to determine if the sheriff’s office was holding immigrants in jail for prolonged periods due to unconstitutional racial profiling.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can ask state agencies to detain individuals after the resolution of traffic, municipal or state criminal charges if it suspects a person has committed a civil immigration violation – a suspicion often based on racial profiling alone. Federal law prohibits state agencies from holding individuals for more than 48 hours after the initial ICE request if the detention is based solely on immigration status. Despite this requirement, 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.
Sheriff Couvillon has argued that the records sought by the SPLC are exempt from the disclosure requirements of the state’s Public Records Act.