Lake County Mother of Three to Be Reunited With Family After Nearly Three Weeks of Unlawful Detainment

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
March 5, 2009 12:00 am

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BROWARD COUNTY, and ORLANDO, Fla. – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are set to release Rita “Fany” Cote, who has been unlawfully detained in a Broward County facility since February 23, to her family this afternoon. Cote will be met by her husband who, along with their three young children, has suffered extensively at being separated.

The ACLU of Florida became involved in the controversial case after learning of the unlawful manner in which Cote was arrested and detained. The ACLU filed a habeas petition in federal court seeking to have Cote released to her family so she could resolve her immigration issues along with her immigration attorney, John Barry.

“We are thrilled for Rita and her family that ICE has released her. Clearly, ICE realized that Rita does not pose a threat to anyone and she should not be separated from her family. I just wish the Tavares Police and Lake County Sheriff had that same awareness two weeks ago.”

Cote, a twenty-three-year-old mother of three, was arrested without charge, unjustly taken from her husband and children by Tavares Police. The police ignored a domestic violence call to which they were responding, and instead arrested Cote, who couldn’t prove her citizenship. Tavares police have no lawful authority to enforce federal immigration law.

After being detained for a week in a Lake County Detention Center without charge and without a warrant against her, she was handed over to ICE officials in Orlando and transferred to Broward County, where she has been held since.

Cote’s sister placed a call to 9-1-1 on Monday, February 16, 2009, as a result of a domestic assault by her boyfriend. When City of Tavares Police arrived to the Cote home, they immediately asked everyone for identification to prove their citizenship.

Cote’s sister, the complaining witness, had bruises on her neck and made several pleas to press charges against her boyfriend. Tavares officers refused to remove the assailant from the home and did not follow the procedures required by Florida Statute for assisting victims of domestic violence. Instead, they arrested Fany Cote, taking her away from her family over an outstanding deportation order. In 2000, when she was only fifteen, Fany’s parents brought her to Florida from Honduras without documentation. Her husband, Bobby, and their three small children, ages seven, four, and two, are all U.S. citizens.

A PDF copy of the Writ of Habeas Corpus that was filed by the ACLU of Florida can be viewed at:

ACLU of Florida senior attorney Glenn Katon is represented Rita “Fany” Cote in the habeas petition. Cote v. Lubins and Borders was filed in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, Ocala Division.

Attorney John Barry represented cote with her immigration concerns.

Previous articles and photos of the father and children can be viewed at:,0,1997282.storylink,0,7598847.story

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