Immigration Worker on Leave After Telling Black Girl 'You Don't Belong'

An immigration official has been placed on leave after he was seen in a viral video telling a teenage Black girl she doesn't belong in the gated community where she lives.

Lee Jeffers, 60, was identified by The Palm Beach Post as the man yelling at 15-year-old Breonna Nelson-Hicks during the confrontation in the Grand Isles development in Wellington, Florida, last Sunday.

"You don't belong in this development," Jeffers is heard saying in the clip that went viral on social media earlier this week. "You do not deserve to be in here," he later added.

Jeffers moved to Wellington five years ago and is an analyst with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

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.

— Rep. Omari Hardy (@OmariJHardy) June 18, 2020

In a statement posted on Twitter, Joseph Edlow, the USCISdeputy director for policy, said the agency was aware of the video and that Jeffers had been placed on administrative leave.

"USCIS does not condone the use of offensive or intimidating language and agency employees are expected to act professionally both at work and in the community," he said.

He added that the role held by Jeffers was "administrative in nature."

"He was not responsible for adjudicating cases for immigration benefits or status," Edlow said.

In an earlier statement, a USCIS spokesperson described the video as "certainly disturbing."

The spokesperson added that the agency—which is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security—holds its employees to the "highest standards of integrity and professionalism regardless if they are on or off-duty."


— USCIS (@USCIS) June 19, 2020

"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," the statement added. The USCIS has been contacted for additional comment.

According to the Post, Jeffers met with Nelson-Hicks' grandfather Tony Nelson on Friday to discuss the incident. Two pastors and Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig were also present.

"I said, 'Don't expect me to forgive you,'" Nelson said he told Jeffers during the meeting.

Nelson and his granddaughter live a few houses away from Jeffers on the same street in Grand Isles.

Last Sunday, she had been riding in a golf cart with friends when Jeffers began following them and almost hit them at one stage.

Two boys left the golf cart and ran away, but Nelson-Hicks started walking home with two other girls, who are white. This led to the encounter with Jeffers outside her home that was captured on camera.

Towards the end of the clip, Nelson is seen coming outside and calling Jeffers out for threatening the girls.

A protester wearing a mask holds their homemade sign that reads, "Listen Learn Change" at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, New York City on June 19, 2020.. Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

Both Nelson and Jeffers reported the incident to the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, a spokeswoman earlier confirmed to Newsweek.

In a statement, a spokesperson said the man in the video claimed he "almost hit the golf cart being driven by the juveniles."

She added: "I am told unless this is a low-speed vehicle with a tag on it, the golf cart is not supposed to be driven on the road.

"As the video shows, the male confronted the juveniles and some of what he said would be in-line with the fact that the golf cart should not be on the road. We received two calls and when the deputies arrived, the male had already gone home. Deputies did speak to the juveniles and made contact with the male next day. Based on both accounts no crime was committed."

The incident came amid ongoing protests against racism and police brutality across the U.S. triggered by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody last month.

Newsweek has contacted Nelson for additional comment. Jeffers could not be reached.