Southern Poverty Law Center granted access to immigrant detention records in Louisiana parish

A Louisiana judge has ordered the sheriff of Vermilion Parish to release records that will help the SPLC determine whether the rights of detained immigrants have been systematically violated.

“We are pleased that this ruling supports transparency and the public’s right to know if a person’s constitutional rights are being violated,” said Katie Schwartzmann, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Louisiana office and the individual requesting the documents. “We will fully examine the records to determine the extent of potential rights violations and take appropriate action to ensure the proper safeguards are in place for immigrant detainees.”

The order was issued last week by state District Judge Herman Clause.

The SPLC filed suit against Vermilion Sheriff Michael Couvillon on Sept. 19 after he refused several official requests for the public documents. The requested records will help determine whether state and local law enforcement agencies are using “immigration detainers” to hold immigrants for unconstitutionally excessive periods.

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.

The SPLC has requested similar documents from 63 Louisiana parishes in order to review the policies and procedures used by local law enforcement agencies as they work with ICE to detain individuals suspected of lacking proper immigration status. Vermilion and 14 other parishes have refused to comply.