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Keys sheriff says citizen who was nearly deported was case of mistaken identity

ICE sought to send Peter Brown to Jamaica; he was born in Philadelphia

Peter Brown says authorities did not believe that he was a U.S. citizen. (ACLU of Florida)

KEY WEST, Fla. – Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay says a U.S. citizen who was detained by federal immigration authorities and nearly deported to Jamaica was a case of mistaken identity. 

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed a lawsuit on the man's behalf in federal court on Monday. Peter Brown, who lives in Key West and was born in Philadelphia, was arrested by Monroe County Sheriff's deputies in April over a probation violation. The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency put him on an immigration hold, believing he was a Jamaica citizen, documents show. 

He was released from the immigration hold after a friend was able to send authorities his birth certificate. 

Initially, the Sheriff's Office declined to comment about pending ligation. But on Tuesday, the Sheriff's Office released more details about the case, saying it was important to be transparent with the public.

"Local law enforcement throughout this country has been caught in the middle of a political argument regarding immigration," Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said in a statement. "This was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity by ICE regarding a subject who was initially in state custody for violating probation for a felony crime of violence against a police officer." 

Ramsay said while ICE was holding Brown his office did not have the legal authority to release him. Ramsay said Brown was held by ICE for about 12 hours.

The lawsuit accuses the Monroe County Sheriff's Office in the Florida Keys of violating Brown's constitutional rights.

"He languished in detention and would have been deported to Jamaica — a country to which he has no ties whatsoever —  if not for the last-minute intervention of a friend," the ACLU said in a statement.