ABBEVILLE, La. (KPEL) -- Vermilion Parish Sheriff Mike Couvillon is the target of a lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center that accuses him of refusing to release certain public documents pertaining to the detention of suspected illegal immigrants.

At issue is whether or not the sheriff's office is following federal regulations which determine for how long an agency can detain someone suspected of being in the country illegally.

It's not unusual for federal agencies--such as U.S. Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement--to ask local officials to hold someone following traffic, municipal, or state criminal charges. But federal regulations do not permit police from holding such suspected people for more than 48 hours.

“Law enforcement cannot just lock someone up – regardless of race, ethnicity or immigration status – and throw away the key,” said Katie Schwartzmann, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Louisiana office and the individual requesting the documents. “We are prepared to do whatever it takes to view these records and ensure that proper safeguards are in place.

The SPLC has requested similar documents from 63 parishes. So far, 15 parishes have refused to provide the documents, claiming the records are exempt from the state's Public Records Act.