Lee Jeffers: Florida immigration officer who told black teen 'you don't deserve to be here' gets suspended
Jeffers was seen in a viral video threatening the teen despite sharing the same gated community
PALM BEACH, FLORIDA: A 60-year-old white man, who was caught on camera telling a teenage black girl that she did not "deserve" to be inside a gated community in Florida, has reportedly been suspended by the immigration authority he works for. The man, identified as Lee Jeffers, reportedly works as an analyst at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS).
Jeffers, last weekend, was filmed on a cellphone camera, telling a 15-yer-old black girl that she did not deserve to be inside the upscale community they both live in. The 60-year-old reportedly moved to Wellington, Palm Beach County nearly five years ago to work at the immigration agency.
Nearly five days after the video of the incident became viral on social media, the Deputy Director of the UCIS, Joseph Edlow, released a statement saying that the department was aware of the video and that Jeffers has been placed on administrative leave as a result. Edlow said that Jeffers worked in the agency in "administrative" capacity. "He was not responsible for adjudicating cases for immigration benefits or status," the deputy director said.
The viral clip was filmed by 15-year-old Breonna Nelson-Hicks along with two of her friends outside her grandfather's home, where Breonna lives. The teen's grandfather, Tony Nelson, reportedly met Jeffers, the Wellington mayor, and two pastors on Friday, June 17. "I said, 'Don’t expect me to forgive you,'" Nelson said while recounting his interaction with Jeffers to the Palm Beach Post. He told Jeffers that there was no excuse for his behavior while the 60-year-old told Nelson that he just wanted to be heard.
Breonna, before the confrontation, had been riding in a golf cart along with her two white female friends, and the vehicle was being driven by two teenage boys. The teen said that Jeffers began following them in his car when they crossed into the Grand Isles development through the gate from a similar community across the street. The boys, after seeing him, pulled the cart to the side to let him pass, however, he parked behind them and kept glowering at the group. The boys then left the cart and ran away, according to Breonna.
Watch the video here:
RETWEET until this man is identified!— Commissioner Omari Hardy (@OmariJHardy) June 18, 2020
He harassed a group of black teens in a gated community in the affluent Village of Wellington, here in my county.
According to him, "they didn't belong in this development."
According to the teens, he threatened to hit them w/ his car. pic.twitter.com/ALynLUvS9E
The teen and her female friends then walked the rest of the way to her grandfather's house. Jeffers, according to Breonna, followed them as they walked and began yelling at them even after they arrived at her grandfather's house. As she records, Jeffers can be heard saying, "Taking my picture, I really don't care, because you don't belong in this development." The girls then inform him that they live in the area, but he demands further information from them asking their names and addresses, which the teens decline to give.
"Why would we tell you any of this," one of the girls tells Jeffers, to which he replies with: "Ok, not a problem, I'm going to call the gate, and have you all arrested. You do not deserve to be in here." Breonna's grandfather, Nelson, 62, is a 33-year resident of Wellington and a member of one of the village's first black families. Breonna reportedly lives with her grandparents on the same street as Jeffers, inside the same gated community.
The teen then suggests that she go inside to get her grandfather. However, as she walks to her front door, Jeffers appears to begin to follow her and says: "Yeah, bring him out right now, bring him out right now." A neighbor behind Jeffers at that moment tells the teens to not argue with him because "it's not worth it." The teens thank her but Jeffers continues to yell at them, saying: "It is because you're driving illegally." One of the girls says: "OK, but you're coming at 15-year-olds," while another adds: "So you're going to hit us with a car?"
Jeffers then can be heard saying: "Because you're 15 years old? You could marry in Mississippi or Alabama." This is when Nelson comes out of the house and walks towards Jeffers who puts up his hand seeing him. "Don't stick your hand out," Nelson says. "Did you threaten a child?" he asks, to which Jeffers responds with: "I did not threaten, I did not threaten a child," as he begins to back away.
The teen then tells his grandfather that she had captured the video of the incident, and the recording stops when he asks to see the video.
The video became viral shortly after Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner Omari Hardy tweeted it. "RETWEET until this man is identified! He harassed a group of black teens in a gated community in the affluent Village of Wellington, here in my county. According to him, 'they didn't belong in this development.' According to the teens, he threatened to hit them w/ his car," Hardy wrote.
A USCIS representative, days later, released a statement, saying: "We are looking into the matter that has been reported in the press about this individual’s off-duty behavior. The video is certainly disturbing, and we are working to get all available information in considering what action, if any, may be appropriate for the agency to take."