Oregon lawmakers demand investigation, apology over mistaken ICE stop
Two Oregon lawmakers are calling for a federal investigation into the conduct of immigration agents who mistakenly approached a Latino man, demanded his name without identifying themselves and claimed he was in the country illegally.
U.S. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer said they were "greatly disturbed" by Isidro Andrade-Tafolla's account of what happened after he and his wife left the Washington County Courthouse on Monday morning. Andrade-Tafolla is a U.S. citizen who has worked for the county for almost 20 years in road maintenance.
The Democrats sent a letter to Elizabeth Godfrey, a regional supervisor for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations based in Portland, saying they hope the agency apologizes to Andrade-Tafolla.
They also asked questions about ICE tactics, including how agents concealing their identity during stops improves public safety.
"As Oregon officials have repeatedly made clear, targeting immigration enforcement in areas near courthouses deters individuals from accessing our justice system and is contrary to the fair administration of law in Oregon," the letter said. "More seriously, targeting U.S. citizens on the basis of race is a clear violation of their constitutional rights."
According to video of the scene and an interview with Andrade-Tafolla, two agents in plain clothes approached him as a nearby demonstration against arrests of undocumented immigrants ended at the courthouse.
Andrade-Tafolla, 46, of Forest Grove said he and his wife were heading to their truck from the courthouse at the time. The officers never identified themselves as they asked Andrade-Tafolla for his name, he said. One of the agents showed Andrade-Tafolla and his wife a picture of another Latino man and claimed it was Andrade-Tafolla. He and his wife adamantly denied the resemblance. The agents left after another agent who drove up to the scene said Andrade-Tafolla wasn't the man in the photo.
On Wednesday, Andrade-Tafolla said he met with his bosses in the county's Land Use and Transportation Department and that they expressed sympathy. A county spokesman said the county offered "support and condolences for what was undoubtedly an upsetting experience."
Andrade-Tafolla said he's grateful for the backing from his bosses and is glad he spoke out. "I think it's important to show people that this could happen to anyone," he said.
Andrade-Tafolla said he came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1981 when he was 10, lived in California and moved to Oregon in 1984. He became a citizen 1996 when he was 25.
Virginia Kice, an ICE spokeswoman, declined to comment on the letter from the lawmakers, but said the officers who contacted Andrade-Tafolla followed procedure.
"In this instance, our officers went to a specific location seeking a particular individual and interacted with someone whom they believed resembled our arrest target," she said in an email. "It turned out the man was not the target and no further action was taken.
Kice earlier said that ICE officers are required to identify themselves to people if they're interacting with them as part of their official duties, but that sometimes they don't in potentially dangerous situations.
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon released footage of the encounter taken by one of its legal observers. The group said it also plans to address the "clear case of racial profiling" with the immigration agency.
"ICE can't just go around stopping anyone who looks Latino and asking them to show their papers," Oregon ACLU said in a statement. "This is America."
The group has cited a letter written in April by Oregon Chief Justice Thomas Balmer 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. Oregon ACLU said its legal observers have seen at least 10 people arrested by ICE officers at the Washington County Courthouse since April.
Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett said he agrees with the chief justice.
Latino community members have legitimate fear that they and their loved ones face random profiling, Garrett said, and that fear could erode trust in law enforcement and the legal system.
A 2014 court order in a Clackamas County immigration case has led sheriffs to no longer recognize ICE "civil detainers" to hold people. He needs an arrest warrant signed by a judge, Garrett said.
"We continue to communicate with our federal partners, including ICE, and we recognize each of us have difficult jobs and these are difficult times, but the conflict between federal law and state law makes that work really challenging," Garrett said.
Washington County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kevin Barton said the courthouse must remain "a safe place for every witness and every victim whether they are or not a citizen, to ensure full access to justice without fear."
Barton said he personally hasn't seen ICE officers at the Washington County Courthouse and isn't aware of any colleagues who have either.
"But just because I haven't seen it, doesn't mean it's not happening," he said.