Groups warn im­mi­grants about trav­el­ing in Flor­ida

The Palm Beach Post - - DAILY LAW JOURNAL - By Olivia Hitch­cock Palm Beach Post Staff Writer ohitch­cock@pb­ Twit­ter: @ohitch­cock

MI­AMI — Fif­teen ad­vo­cacy groups is­sued a warn­ing about trav­el­ing in Flor­ida on Wed­nes­day say­ing im­mi­gra­tion ar­rests here have soared more rapidly in the past year than in any other area of the coun­try.

Lead­ers from im­mi­grant rights and non­profit orga- niza­tions said new cooper- ation be­tween Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment and 17 Flor­ida sher­iffs is also spread­ing fear in the state.

The travel ad­vi­sory warns im­mi­grants from other states to re­con­sider Flor­ida trips or to be ready to en­counter immi- gra­tion agents at air­ports, sea ports and bus sta­tions.

“We are tak­ing the step of warn­ing our com­mu­ni­ties that as the Flor­ida law­mak- ers, state, lo­cal and fed­eral, do not take steps to push back against the anti-im­mi­grant poli­cies, we do not feel like our com­mu­ni­ties are safe in the state,” said To­mas Kennedy, deputy po­lit­i­cal di­rec- tor at the Flor­ida Im­mi­grant Coali­tion.

The ad­vi­sory comes as Flor- ida braces for its busy spring break sea­son in March, when its beach re­sorts and theme parks at­tract mil­lions of peo- ple. The gov­ern­ment es­ti­mated more than 4 mil­lion trav­el­ers from Canada and other coun- RIVIERA BEACH — They met tries ar­rived from Jan­u­ary to on­line, au­thor­i­ties said: She, March in 2017, com­pared with the 15-year-old with even al­most 27 mil­lion vis­i­tors who younger friends; he, the came from other states. 33-year-old more than old

Ac­tivists staged ral­lies across enough to buy them al­co­hol. the state Wed­nes­day, in­cludThey ren­dezvoused last ing at Grey­hound bus sta­tions month at a Star­bucks near — where at least two re­cent the group home where she Bor­der Pa­trol ar­rests of pas- lived with other young teens, sen­gers were caught on cell- she told Riviera Beach po­lice. phone videos. Fed­eral law­mak- Then they drove to his home ers have de­manded a re­view on the south side of the city of searches and seizures in for a week of sex and liquor. the 100-mile zone near borThat man, Ser­gio Brown, ders and coasts. was ar­rested last week on two counts of lewd and las­civ­i­ous be­hav­ior with a mi­nor for re­port­edly sex­u­ally as­sault­ing two teens. As of Wed­nes­day morn­ing, he re­mained in the Palm Beach County Jail on $200,000 bail.

The 15-year-old told Riviera Beach po­lice she and a few of her friends drank at Brown’s home Jan. 19. They stopped back at their res­i­dence, then she and two teens re­turned the next day to Brown’s home. The 15-year-old said she didn’t — and couldn’t — leave un­til Jan. 26. She told au­thor­i­ties that Brown raped her at least twice, and that when she tried to scream or run away, Brown said he’d choke her.

The age of sex­ual con­sent in Flor­ida is 18. No one un­der the age of 16 can give con­sent un­der any cir­cum­stances.

The two other teens, 14 and 17, told po­lice they en­gaged in sex­ual ac­tiv­i­ties with Brown and an­other man as well. They said Brown was aware of how young they were. How­ever, at least one of the teens dis­puted the 15-year-old’s story of be­ing held hostage by Brown, say­ing she had been with an­other man that week.

A man who lived in the build­ing told au­thor­i­ties he saw naked girls in the apart­ment. They ap­peared to be in­tox­i­cated, he told po­lice. Brown asked the man if he wanted to have sex with them. He told po­lice he said no.

Ser­gio Brown, 33, is ac­cused of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing two teens.

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