NEW ORLEANS — A state judge in Crowley has ordered the Vermilion Parish sheriff to provide records to a nonprofit group of immigrants detained since 2009.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has asked 63 Louisiana sheriffs for such records, to see whether people held for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials after arrests on other charges were jailed without bond longer than federal law allows.
“Other groups throughout the country are investigating this process, these immigration detainers — when Immigration or ICE asks local or county sheriffs to hold individuals ... suspected of being not U.S. citizens,” said Meredith Stewart, staff attorney for the law center.
She said the agency can have people listed for deportation — or even just suspected of violating immigration law — detained for up to 48 hours.
“There’s a lot of controversy about whether it’s legal, whether it’s a burden on local sheriffs, the frequency of people being over-detained without charges against them,” Stewart said.
Vermilion Sheriff Michael Couvillon was among 15 Louisiana sheriffs who refused to return over their records, contending that doing so would violate privacy.
The group sued Couvillon. Stewart said Tuesday that he gave the group access to the records late last week, after being ordered to by state District Judge Herman Clause.
The other 14 sheriffs are from all around the state but, like Couvillon, are represented by the Usry, Weeks & Matthews law firm, Stewart said.
The firm did not immediately return a call to ask about the other 14 sheriffs’ plans.
New Orleans was not asked to turn over documents because attorneys focused elsewhere in the state, Stewart said.
She said 48 sheriffs “did comply or are in the process of complying or we are working with them,” she said.
Few are electronic records.
“We’re still piling up paper. We’ve gotten a lot of documents had have a lot of reviewing to do,” she said.