HILLSBORO, Ore. — The ACLU of Oregon filed a federal complaint against U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officers for stopping and questioning a Latino man outside the Washington county courthouse in 2017.
They say ICE agents illegally blocked Isidro Andrade-Tafolla and wouldn't let him walk away. He feels it was because of the color of his skin.
On Monday, hundreds of faith leaders, immigration advocates and supporters rallied around Andrade-Tafolla outside the Washington County Courthouse as the ACLU and other partners announced the legal action.
Immigration advocates were at the courthouse that day in 2017 and an ACLU volunteer observer caught the confrontation on camera.
Andrade-Tafolla and his wife were leaving the courthouse, where she was appearing, when a group of ICE agents followed and surrounded them.
Andrade-Tafolla, a United States citizen and Washington County worker, says they asked for his name and identification. But when he asked who they were and what they were stopping him for, they wouldn't tell him.
The agency told KGW in 2017 officers thought Andrade-Tafolla was an arrest target.
When they looked at a photo of the person they were trying to track down, Andrade-Tafolla said they walked away. He was left stunned and humiliated.
“In this case I right away came up with racial profiling. They had nothing else to come at me with. I had nothing to even be here at court other than to support my wife,” Andrade-Tafolla said. “They just thought because the color of my skin, I was at the courthouse, they saw some tattoos, figured I wasn’t [speaking] English as well, thought they’d go and corner me and think they’d get away with it.”
Andrade-tafolla said he reached out to the ACLU.
“There’s no words to describe it. Just being a U.S. citizen I thought I would never have to face such a thing. I’d seen and I’d heard it, I hear [about] it going on everywhere. Being a U.S. citizen working for the government itself, I just feel betrayed,” he added.
The ACLU of Oregon filed a federal tort claim against ICE on his behalf. The union argues his case highlights how commonly ICE is using Oregon courthouses to target people for arrest.
“That practice, we believe, is both unlawful but more importantly it causes significant damage to community trust,” ACLU of Oregon staff attorney Leland Baxter-Neal said.
Under President Trump, immigration advocates say there's been a sharp uptick in ICE arrests outside or near courthouses.
“ICE will come in in plain clothes, they will not identify themselves, they will not wear badges, they will not present warrants, they won’t tell people who they are and they will literally disappear people out of the courthouses, mid-proceedings in some cases,” Baxter-Neal told KGW. “And so that kind of tactic creates an atmosphere where individuals are literally afraid to come to the courthouse for any number of reasons.”
Baxter-Neal and other advocates rallying Monday feel it compromises justice in Oregon by spreading fear throughout communities.
ACLU of Oregon says based on information they’ve obtained and what their trained legal observers are noting, there have been planned or successfully carried out courthouse arrests in at least 16 Oregon counties since 2016.
In July, ICE officers arrested a man and pepper sprayed his supporters at the Clatsop County Courthouse.
Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin is grateful they were there that day. He fully supports ICE arrests at courthouses as long as officers don't go inside courtrooms and disrupt proceedings underway. He also says as long as they identify themselves or have some form of identification, he believes courthouses are “perfectly legitimate places to effect an arrest"
“There’s other issues, too, as far as officer safety goes for being able to not have to chase people and just walk up calmly and not pose a big threat. And as long as people obey the law then they don’t have anything to worry about,” Sheriff Bergin told KGW.
In Andrade-Tafolla’s case, Bergin defends the agents and doesn't think Andrade-Tafolla was profiled. He says ICE agents are very professional and there are hardly ever occurrences of mistaken identity or wrongful arrests.
“We’re all human, we all make mistakes. But rarely does it occur based on profiling,” Bergin added. “If people are afraid to come to the courthouse because somebody might get arrested then there must be something wrong from the beginning of that scenario.”
In December 2018, Innovation Law Lab and the ACLU of Oregon formally petitioned Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters on behalf of multiple organizations to issue an emergency rule. It would stop civil immigration arrests at or near state courthouses.
Nearly 300 clergy leaders, alongside the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, also submitted a letter to Chief Justice Walters requesting she stop ICE activity at state courts.
Andrade-Tafolla says his encounter with ICE changed his life in that he feels insecure about his surroundings
“It just puts a lot fear. I’m always watching my back now so it’s disturbing for sure,” Andrade-Tafolla said. “This has been my community for over 30 years now and this happening to me - regardless of how it happened and how it went down - it opened my eyes, created a sense of insecurity. Because of what happened I feel like the justice system isn’t fair and it’s just letting us down.”