Last week, Couvillon was at the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association meeting in Baton Rouge when he received a phone call about a story that had just came out dealing with the sheriff in Vermilion Parish refusing to release federal immigration detainer forms.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s suit against Couvillon stems from public records requests submitted to sherriff’s in 63 parishes. Of those, 15 sheriff’s denied requests for documents related to individual immigration detainer forms, the lawsuit says. Vermilion Parish is said to be one of the 15 parishes.
Couvillon, on Thursday, said he remembers receiving the letter from the law center. He forwarded it to the lawyer of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association in order for them to handle it. That was over the summer. It was also the last time he heard of the Southern Poverty Law Center, until last week.
“I have yet to be served the lawsuit,” said Couvillon. “I am not sure why my name is the only one being mentioned.”
The lawsuit filed said it has concerns that rights of immigrants may have been violated while they stayed in parish jails from 2009 until today.
Couvillon said Vermilion Parish’s jail does not house immigrant prisoners like it once did in the 1990s under then Sheriff Ray LeMaire. Since 2009 there have been just under 30 immigrant prisoners who have gone through the parish jail. These are prisoners who have been arrested for DWI, fighting or any other crimes in the parish. They are arrested, booked into the parish jail until they are released on bond.
Craig Frosch, an attorney for the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, in August wrote that immigration detainer records fall outside the state’s Public Records Act.
The Morning Advocate reports that, according to Meredith Stewart, a staff attorney at the civil rights organization, says that denying the public documents requests, the 15 sheriffs all cited the same exemption under the state’s Public Records Act, “none of which we think are applicable to our request.”
“We just want to make sure that Louisiana law enforcement agencies are following the rules when it comes to federal immigration detainers,” Stewert said in the Morning Advocate.
Couvillion added that Vermilion Parish runs a top-notch jail and treats immigrant prisoners the same as American prisoners.