Federal lawsuit filed by Forest Grove man detained by ICE
Attorneys working on behalf of a Forest Grove man detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents outside the Washington County Courthouse in 2017 have officially filed a federal lawsuit related to the incident.
Isidro Andrade-Tafolla seeks an undisclosed amount in damages for "humiliation, emotional distress and psychological harm" after ICE agents allegedly racially profiled him, mistaking him for someone else and accusing him of being in the country without proper documentation, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Aug. 12, by attorneys working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.
"Isidro has lived in Washington County since he was a teenager," said Caitlin Mitchell of Johnson Johnson Lucas & Middleton, a law firm working on the case, in a statement. "He has worked for the county for more than two decades and been a U.S. citizen for 25 years. He also is a father, husband, and youth soccer coach. If this can happen to him, it can happen to anyone. ICE must be held accountable for violating the law."
A spokeswoman for ICE said Thursday the agency can't comment on pending litigation.
In a letter written after the incident, Elizabeth Godfrey, ICE's deputy field office director in Portland, said ICE agents had been searching the courthouse for an undocumented man charged with driving under the influence.
"At no point did ICE officers attempt to detain Mr. Andrade-Tafolla," Godfrey said. "Throughout the encounter, ICE officers handled themselves with professionalism and treated Mr. Andrade-Tafolla with respect."
But Andrade-Tafolla and his wife, Renee Selden-Andrade, who was with him at the time, say the experience was far from respectful.
The couple was at the courthouse because Selden-Andrade had a DUII diversion docket hearing, according to the lawsuit. ICE agents followed the couple into the courtroom and watched them during the hearing.
Despite both Andrade-Tafolla and Selden-Andrade's names being read during the hearing, as well as the name of the individual who ICE had been searching for, ICE agents in plain clothes and an unmarked van later drove in front of the couple's truck and stopped them, according to the lawsuit.
Without identifying themselves, the agents demanded Andrade-Tafolla provide identification with an "aggressive, demeaning demeanor," the lawsuit says. They showed him a mugshot of a Latino man and asked Andrade-Tafolla to confirm the pictured man was him.
"The individual in the mugshot did not resemble Mr. Andrade-Tafolla, except that he, like Mr. Andrade-Tafolla, had brown skin," the lawsuit states.
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.
A cellphone video taken by an ACLU volunteer shows the couple being questioned. After other ICE agents arrive and look at the photograph, the agents leave without providing any explanation.
During a press conference announcing the filing Wednesday, Andrade-Tafolla said the experience was "life-changing" and that it has been "hard to move forward."
"It has caused a lot of stress, emotions that caused me to seek professional help," he said.
Andrade-Tafolla could not sleep for months, according to the lawsuit. He is said to have received negative comments from community members, including at work, where he is a utility worker for the county government, following the widely publicized incident.
"Mr. Andrade-Tafolla arrived at work one day to find that someone had left an icepack on top of his belongings, a clear reference to his detention by ICE agents," the lawsuit states. "Ms. Selden-Andrade's co-worker suggested that she should be fired from her job. Mr. Andrade-Tafolla no longer feels comfortable at his workplace. He worries for his children's safety."
Selden-Andrade said she continues to relive the incident today.
"I always think about how there could have been other outcomes to the situation that could have been much worse," she said.
Andrade-Tafolla said he believes in the efforts of people across the country who have increasingly been advocating for policing reforms. But he said it has been triggering to see news reports of federal officers in unmarked vehicles arresting protesters in Portland recently.
"This has been just horrible what's going on," Andrade-Tafolla said. "It's nothing new, but it bothers me. Now that we're seeking some change, I think the time is right and we need to continue and stay together."
Malori Maloney, an attorney working with the Washington County Justice Initiative, was also present for the Wednesday press conference.
"The illegal detention of Isidro Andrade-Tafolla is one of countless instances of discrimination by government officials in Washington County," Maloney said.
She said the WCJI calls for an end to all coordination between ICE and local law enforcement, decreased funding for the Washington County District Attorney's Office and other law enforcement agencies and increased funding for social services.
ACLU attorneys say documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show that federal officers have attempted to enforce immigration law at 16 different courthouses in Oregon since the beginning of the Trump administration. They say such actions have made many people feel afraid to go to courthouses, compromising access to justice.
The Andrade-Tafolla incident drew the ire of Democratic lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, who called on ICE to stop using courthouses as a place to arrest undocumented residents.
In November 2019, Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters issued a new rule to stop such arrests in Oregon's courthouses. Warrantless arrests and detentions like the one targeting Andrade-Tafolla are administrative arrests under civil law, and not criminal arrests, the ACLU said.
The Trump administration responded to Walters' order by saying the state cannot legally restrict federal agents' actions.
Andrade-Tafolla's attorneys are filing the lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people to hold federal officials liable if they break state laws prohibiting false arrest, Mitchell said.
This spring, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied a claim filed by Andrade-Tafolla's attorneys against ICE last year. The Federal Tort Claims Act requires such claims to be filed before federal lawsuits can proceed.
Andrade-Tafolla previously sought $100,000 in damages, according to the claim filed last year.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to show ICE delined to comment on the lawsuit.
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