ICE says officers didn't racially profile Latino man they mistook as a suspect
Two plainclothes immigration officers didn't racially profile a Latino man when they mistook him for a criminal suspect last month near the Washington County Courthouse, an ICE official says.
The officers identified themselves as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents during the encounter and never tried to detain the man, said ICE Acting Field Office Director Elizabeth Godfrey of Portland.
The confrontation between the officers and Isidro Andrade-Tafolla, a longtime Washington County road maintenance worker who was at the courthouse with his wife, was caught on video and prompted two members of Oregon's congressional delegation to demand that ICE apologize and investigate what happened.
The officers were looking for a man who had been deported twice before and was due to appear at the courthouse in Hillsboro on Sept. 18 on an allegation of impaired driving, Godfrey wrote in a letter to U.S. Reps Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer.
The two identified themselves to Andrade-Tafolla, displayed their badges, asked for his name and asked that he show them his identification, the letter said. When they determined Andrade-Tafolla wasn't the man they sought, they apologized "and swiftly departed."
"Throughout the encounter, ICE officers handled themselves with professionalism and treated Mr. Andrade-Tafolla with respect," Godfrey wrote.
On Wednesday, Andrade-Tafolla called Godfrey's account "absurd" and said he was bothered by her attempt "to excuse away what happened."
"At least they said something, but nothing there is true," said Andrade-Tafolla, 46, about the letter. "Video was taken just about as soon as we were stopped and clearly the video shows they never identified themselves, even when we kept asking."
Andrade-Tafolla said he hasn't received any notifications or apology from ICE. He is going to therapy to deal with stress from the encounter, he said. Andrade-Tafolla, born in Mexico, became a U.S. citizen in 1996 and has worked almost 20 years for Washington County.
Bonamici, a Democrat from Beaverton, also expressed concern over "apparent contradictions" in ICE's account and footage released by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon. Legal observers from the group were nearby to attend a protest at the courthouse against President Trump administration immigration policies and took video of the encounter nearby.
Bonamici said in a statement that she plans to ask the House Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on the incident when she returns to Washington, D.C.
Bonamici, Blumenauer and two members of the Judiciary Committee also have asked ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan to investigate and still await a response, a spokeswoman from Bonamici's office said. Blumenauer said ICE should produce some evidence to prove Andrade-Tafolla wasn't targeted because of his race.
"Release the photos of the person of interest and let the American people decide whether or not racial profiling was at play," he said in a statement.
The ICE field supervisor said the officers were conducting an investigation that was an "essential part of routine, daily operations" for law enforcement at every level nationwide.
The officers didn't target Andrade-Tafolla because of his race and any assertions that he did or that ICE officers engage in racial profiling "directly undermine public trust in law enforcement," Godfrey wrote.
Officers at times approach suspects in plainclothes to protect themselves, she said.
"In the Portland metro area in particular, ICE officers are facing increasingly hostile and aggressive sentiment and obstructionist tactics," Godfrey wrote. "These officers are simply carrying out their duty to uphold the laws that Congress has passed."
Andrade-Tafolla told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he and his wife were heading to their pickup from the courthouse when a man and a woman came out of a van parked in front of them.
One of the agents showed Andrade-Tafolla and his wife a picture of another Latino man and claimed it was Andrade-Tafolla, he said. He and his wife adamantly denied the resemblance. The officers left after another agent who drove up to the scene said Andrade-Tafolla wasn't the man in the photo.
Andrade-Tafolla said he discovered the man and woman were with ICE because one of the other officers who drove up wore a jacket with the agency's name on it and wore a badge.
The Oregon ACLU described the encounter as a "clear case of racial profiling" by the immigration agency and last week filed a Freedom of Information Act request with ICE seeking records on arrests that the agency has made in and around the Washington County Courthouse.
Mat dos Santos, ACLU of Oregon's legal director, described Godfrey's letter as "shocking, incomplete, at best misleading, but probably intentionally false." He also said he believes the video contradicts the version of events laid out by the federal agency and said he was struck by the lack of an apology to Andrade-Tafolla.
"It's incredibly disappointing that instead of using this as an opportunity to acknowledge a mistake and inform the public on how they would correct that in the future, we got a letter that was replete with misrepresentation and mischaracterization," dos Santos said.
ACLU observers have seen at least 10 people arrested by ICE agents at the county courthouse since April, the watchdog group said. That same month, Oregon Chief Justice Thomas Balmer wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then-Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly urging ICE to stop making arrests in and around Oregon's courthouses.