HILLSBORO — Interfaith leaders and protesters stood in a circle and blessed Isidro Andrade-Tafolla on the grass of the same courthouse where he was unlawfully questioned by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in 2017.
About 300 protesters from the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, Innovation Law Lab, Adelante Mujeres, the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice and Northwest Workers’ Justice gathered with Andrade-Tafolla to protest ICE detaining and arresting immigrants when they come to the courthouse. Protesters held picket signs and banners. They peacefully and quietly walked around the Washington County Courthouse Monday morning.
Protesters recited prayers and repeatedly said, “We will not despair, we are a circle of protection.”
Attorneys from the ACLU of Oregon and Johnson, Johnson, Lucas & Middleton then announced that they filed a federal tort claim on behalf of Andrade-Tafolla against ICE. The attorneys are seeking $100,000 in damages for the “humiliation, emotional distress and psychological harm as a result of ICE’s actions that day.”
On September 18, 2017, Andrade-Tafolla went to the courthouse in Hillsboro to support his wife while protestors demonstrated against immigration arrests. Two ICE agents stood in the hallway looking for a suspect who was later granted diversion, according to the complaint.
The couple was followed outside the courthouse by the agents in an unmarked van, where they asked for Andrade-Tafolla’s name and identification. The complaint states that the agent wouldn’t identify herself. One of the agents then tried to show him a mugshot on her phone and accused Andrade-Tafolla of being the man in the photo who only looked similar because they were both Latino, the complaint states.
The complaint states that two other unmarked vehicles with four more ICE agents drove up and blocked his van. One agent had a badge and another wore a shirt that said ICE. One agent then said that Andrade-Tafolla was not the man in the mugshot and drove away.
An ACLU spotter filmed the encounter with ICE, according to the complaint.
Andrade-Tafolla told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he had to go to therapy to deal with stress from the encounter. At the time of the ICE stop he had worked for Washington County for more than 20 years.
“There’s no words to describe it,” he said at the protest. “Being a U.S. citizen, I never thought I’d have to face such a thing … I’m always watching my back now.”
Caitlin Mitchell, an attorney with Johnson, Johnson, Lucas and Middleton in Eugene, said ICE unlawfully confined Andrade-Tafolla, and racial profiling is not a reason to stop someone.
Two U.S. representatives from Oregon demanded a federal investigation into Andrade-Tafolla’s treatment, and asked the agency to apologize for the agents’ actions. ICE Acting Field Office Director Elizabeth Godfrey of Portland denied allegations of racial profiling in a letter to the lawmakers last October, writing that the officers identified themselves as ICE agents and never tried to detain Andrade-Tafolla.
Leland Baxter-Neal, an attorney at the ACLU of Oregon, said ICE’s routine use of courthouses to arrest immigrants is unlawful and causes distrust in the community. People feel discouraged to do things like testifying as witnesses in criminal or civil cases, he said.
The ACLU and other groups petitioned Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters in December 2018 to issue a rule prohibiting immigration arrests near courthouses. Similar actions have been taken by state courts in New York and a federal court in Massachusetts.
The organization sued the U.S. government in February 2018, demanding that ICE disclose the number of people arrested or questioned by immigration agents at or near Oregon courthouses.
Through public records, the ACLU of Oregon said they found civil immigration enforcement activities at state courthouses in Lane, Marion, Multnomah, Clackamas, Umatilla, Morrow, Sherman, Gilliam, Wheeler, Wasco, Hood River, Josephine, Lincoln, Clatsop, Washington and Yamhill counties.
ICE spokesperson Tanya Roman said sanctuary policies, like in Oregon, often prevent the federal agency from being notified when an undocumented immigrant is arrested for a crime, which leads the agency to conducting targeted enforcements at courthouses.
She said courthouse arrests are not made indiscriminately, and arrests inside courthouses are coordinated with courthouse security leadership.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has every legal right to carry out its mission on courthouse grounds if the circumstances of an enforcement action require it,” she said.
Reached by email on Sunday evening, Roman said ICE does not comment on pending litigation.
“However, the agency’s lack of comment should not be construed as agreement with or stipulation to any of the allegations,” Roman said in a statement.
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