Federal lawmakers are calling on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to investigate after a U.S. citizen was stopped and questioned outside the Washington County courthouse by ICE agents.
Oregon Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, along with fellow Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer and Congressmen John Conyers of Michigan and Zoe Lofgren of California, are pressing ICE to look into why a handful of plainclothes immigration agents stopped a Latino man outside the courthouse this week, wrongfully accusing him of being in the country illegally.
Isidro Andrade-Tafolla — a longtime employee of Washington County and a U.S. citizen — was at the Washington County Circuit Court on Sept. 18, when ICE officers reportedly followed him and his wife to their car and stopped them.
"What happened here on Monday is something I never expected to be a victim of," Andrade told a crowd during a press conference on Friday. "I always felt safe being a U.S. citizen. I felt I could go anywhere and do anything. I've raised my family here in this county."
As first reported by The Oregonian, the agents did not identify themselves as federal officers, and instead demanded that Andrade provide his name and identification. The agents reportedly showed a picture of a suspect to Andrade, which they claimed was a photo of him. They said he was in the country without proper documentation.
"There was no resemblance," Andrade said. "It was insulting to be shown a picture of someone else and be told that it was you. This is wrong. Telling me I look like somebody else because of the color of my skin? I was racially profiled. I was discriminated against. I was violated of my civil rights."
Cellphone video provided by the American Civil Liberties Union shows the couple being questioned. After a few minutes, the agents were joined by more ICE agents who, after looking at the photograph, determined Andrade was not the man they were searching for. The agents then left without providing any explanation or apology.
"It shouldn't matter what color you are, you shouldn't be cornered like this," Andrade said. "It's insulting, it's disturbing ... there's no word that I can put out there to describe that feeling."
In a letter sent Friday, Sept. 22, to Acting Director of ICE Thomas Homan and Oregon's Deputy Field Office Director Elizabeth Godfrey, Bonamici called on the agency to be transparent about its investigation and called on the agency to detail policies to prevent similar incidents from happening again. The lawmakers gave the agency until Oct. 9 to respond.
"The ICE detention and interrogation of a U.S. citizen, even for a brief period of time, is disturbing and possibly unconstitutional," the lawmakers wrote. "… The use of plainclothes officers who refuse to identify themselves as law enforcement officers is not conducive to a law enforcement mission and it harkens back to the use of secret police."
At the Friday press conference, Andrade was joined by Bonamici and Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett, who said the stop set a dangerous example for law enforcement agents.
"For many years the standard for plainclothes police who contact or stop a person in the community has been to clearly and immediately identify themselves, Garrett said. "To not do so is reckless and dangerous."
Garrett said that when plainclothes police don't identify themselves, it creates confusion and escalates situations, because suspects don't understand if they are being questioned by police, or about to be the victims of a crime. Those incidents often lead people to call 9-1-1, Garrett said, which creates more confusion as officers arrive, unaware that the individuals involved are law enforcements.
"You can see first-hand the damage that this incident has had on the trust between local law enforcement and the community," Garrett said, "which is a necessary component of us being able to do our job successfully."
Garrett, who is the president of the Oregon Association of Sheriffs, said he met with ICE officials shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump took office, and was assured that ICE agents would identify themselves to suspects.
"We were assured in those cases that agents would identify themselves verbally with a clearly visible badge or vest or a jacket with clear insignia, and that their vehicles were equipped with red and blue lights," Garrett said. "It's regrettable that the facts in the case of Andrade-Tafolla are inconsistent with those assurances."
Bonamici introduced legislation earlier this year that would bar ICE agents from arresting and interviewing suspects at courthouses.
"ICE is clearly out of control," Bonamici said. "We've heard story after story. This one just happens to be right here in Hillsboro at our doorstep."