This fall, two controversial arrests in the Portland area raised fears that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are breaking federal laws and their own rules.
Now WW has learned of a third.
The likely rule-breaking by the feds extends as far back as March 13, 2017, when ICE agents watched a man leave Legacy Emanuel Health Center in North Portland and arrested him at a bus stop just outside the hospital—a clear violation of the agency's own "sensitive locations" policy, says Legacy Health.
About two weeks ago, a lawyer investigating the incident for Legacy met with ICE officials to complain. "We have clear and convincing proof that ICE violated its sensitive space policy by coming onto the campus," says Legacy Health spokesman Brian Terrett. "We made it very clear that we did not want to see a repeat of their behavior on any of our medical campuses. It is our expectation that they never come on to any of our campuses ever again."
The arrested immigrant, whose history includes a DUII charge, is awaiting an immigration hearing before a federal immigration judge.
In a statement issued after WW‘s press deadlines, ICE says its agents did nothing wrong when making the arrest.
“[The man] was arrested by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations officers near but not on Legacy Emanuel Medical Center property after efforts to locate him elsewhere proved unsuccessful,” the agency said in a statement. “The required authorization was obtained in advance of the arrest.”
Agents can get authorization from a supervising official to make an arrest at a sensitive location, per the agency’s policy, but that same policy emphasizes that ICE agents should “make substantial efforts to avoid unnecessarily alarming local communities” by making arrests at schools, hospitals and churches.
Because the arrest at the hospital in March stayed secret for so long, some wonder how many improper detentions have occurred in Portland since the Trump administration announced more aggressive enforcement priorities.
“[For] any of these actions that we’ve recorded or have reported on, there are likely dozens or more happening here in Oregon and around the nation every month that we just never hear about,” says Mat dos Santos, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. “If ICE can’t admit that their agents may be violating policy, I have no hope that we might see a decrease in these kinds of illegal arrests.”
How the arrest happened:
1. An undocumented 19-year-old man visited Legacy Emanuel Health Center in North Portland on March 13, 2017.
2. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents watched as the young man left the hospital and walked to the bus stop immediately in front of the hospital’s entrance on North Vancouver Avenue.
3. Agents approached and arrested the man at the bus stop.
4. ICE then took the man to a detention center.
The rule ICE violated:
The agency’s own policies, written in 2011, make clear that hospitals are among the locations where immigration agents are not supposed to arrest or detain people. The rulebook says, in part:
“Pursuant to ICE policy, enforcement actions are not to occur at or be focused on sensitive locations. Locations treated as sensitive locations under ICE policy would include, but are not be limited to:
Medical treatment and health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities.”
Two other ICE cases drawing scrutiny from lawmakers:
The March 13 arrest is one of at least three enforcement actions by ICE agents this year that appear to violate either the agency’s policies or federal law.
• On Sept. 18, agents in plain clothes approached a man outside the Washington County Courthouse and demanded to see his ID. Isidro Andrade-Tafolla, a U.S. citizen who works for the county in road maintenance, and his wife adamantly denied he was the man the agents were seeking. The interaction was caught on video, and critics lobbed allegations that the agents targeted Andrade-Tafolla because of his race.
• On Oct. 19, a man shot video as ICE agents entered a private home in downtown Portland and refused to answer his questions about whether they had a warrant. The agents arrested another man, Carlos Bolanos, who was working on a renovation in the home. They released Bolanos about 90 minutes later.
ICE has said it is reviewing both incidents. Critics say ICE has been emboldened by the Trump administration to bend or break its own policies.
“ICE is essentially saying,” dos Santos says, “that we care more about numbers and rounding people up and shipping them out of the country than we care about the laws of our states and our agency policies.”