Citizen stopped by ICE outside Hillsboro courthouse seeks damages
A Forest Grove man detained by immigration officials outside the Washington County Circuit Court in Hillsboro says he's fighting back.
Isidro Andrade Tafolla and the Oregon branch of the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a federal claim against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seeking $100,000 for Andrade Tafolla's humiliation, emotional distress and psychological harm after he was questioned by ICE agents two years ago.
Andrade Tafolla is a U.S. citizen, but agents mistook him for someone else and accused him of being in the country without proper documentation. Andrade Tafolla has worked in road maintenance for Washington County for more than two decades.
"He coaches youth soccer," Andrade Tafolla's attorney Caitlin Mitchell said. "He has a great wife and kids here."
But Mitchell said that didn't stop ICE agents from stopping Andrade Tafolla on Sept. 18, 2017. Mitchell said the agents were in the courthouse watching Andrade Tafolla and his wife during an unrelated court hearing, then followed them to their vehicle where they stopped them and began to question them.
The agents demanded Andrade Tafolla provide his name and identification. According to the ACLU the agents claimed he was in the country without proper documentation and planned to arrest and deport him. They showed Andrade Tafolla a picture of a Latino man they claimed was a picture of him, but was not.
"There was no resemblance," Andrade Tafolla said during a 2017 press conference. "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."
The incident happened the same day members of the ACLU were at the courthouse to protest ICE agents' use of public spaces, such as courthouses, as places to make arrests.
Cellphone video provided by the ACLU shows the couple being questioned. After other ICE agents arrive and look at the photograph, the agents leave without providing any explanation.
As a U.S. citizen, Andrade Tafolla said he never worried about ICE prior to the 2017 incident, but his views have changed.
"I thought law enforcement officers were professionals and they would act professionally," Andrade Tafolla told more than 200 people gathered outside the courthouse during a press conference on Monday, Aug. 12. "But what happened to me here at the courthouse has been happening at the border, at ICE raids, with kids separated from parents, with kids dying in detention centers. My eyes are opened."
Monday's claim was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, according to Mitchell, a complex law that allows lawsuit against federal employees, including ICE agents, who have caused injuries while on the job.
"These agents did not have a warrant for Mr. Andrade Tafolla's arrest and they lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause that he had violated any law," Mitchell said. "They stopped him because of the color of his skin."
Andrade Tafolla's case drew the ire of democratic lawmakers, including Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, who called on ICE to stop using courthouses as a place to arrest undocumented residents. Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett and District Attorney Kevin Barton also came out against the practice.
ICE has said it acted professionally during the incident, and pushes back against claims that its agents did not identify themselves or that Andrade Tafolla was ever formally detained.
"At no point did ICE officers attempt to detain Mr. Andrade-Tafolla," ICE's acting field office director, Elizabeth Godfrey wrote to federal lawmakers in 2017. "Throughout the encounter, ICE officers handled themselves with professionalism and treated Mr. Andrade-Tafolla with respect."
Andrade Tafolla disagreed, saying ICE's actions across the country have hurt far more people than they have helped.
"These federal agents must be held accountable," Andrade Tafolla said. "Immigrants and people of color make this country great. Latinos make this country great. We are hard workers and folks that come here to provide for their families and to hope for a better future. Our communities are stronger and more vibrant when all people are welcome."
Activists and religious leaders have met outside the courthouse each week since 2017 to protest ICE's actions at the courthouse.
"We will not despair," the crowd — which included local activists, religious leaders and ACLU officials — chanted several times during Monday's demonstration. "We are a circle of protection."
By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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