Federal immigration officials responded Thursday to Oregon lawmakers concerned about a pair of attempted arrests that took place in recent months.
The letter from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Director Raymond Kovacic came in response from concerns lodged by Oregon Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer.
Both Portland area Democrats said they were concerned about two incidents involving ICE agents: a Sept. 18 interaction outside a Washington County courthouse and an Oct. 20 arrest inside a Portland area home.
Bonamici and Blumenauer said it appeared in videos that ICE officers failed to identify themselves or procure proper warrants. The lawmakers expressed concern the potential violation of constitutional rights could “undermine public confidence in the integrity of the agency.”
In his letter Thursday, Kovacic defended the ICE agents involved and said they followed agency policy.
“Any recording that failed to capture the beginning of the encounter when officer self-identification took place should not be relied upon,” the assistant director wrote.
In video of the Sept. 18 incident in Washington County, several plainclothes agents approach Isidro Andrade-Tafolla, who is Latino and a longtime county employee.
The agents repeatedly ask Andrade-Tafolla for identification while comparing him to a picture on their cellphones.
Bystanders ask the agents for identification, but they refuse and insist Andrade-Tafolla is the person in the picture. When another ICE agent arrives on the scene and realizes the Forest Grove resident is not the person they are looking for, the group quickly leaves.
Kovacic wrote that the video doesn’t show the whole encounter but “does serve to illustrate the hostile environment that ICE officers must confront every day.”
“In spite of being verbally abused, ICE officers demonstrated great restraint and professionalism throughout the encounter,” he wrote.
Kovacic also said the officers did not target Andrade-Tafolla based upon his ethnicity.
“Though we appreciate ICE acknowledging our letter, the response is highly contradictory,” Bonamici and Blumenauer wrote. “If the two Oregon incidents are under review, how can ICE also conclude that officers followed all policies and procedures?”
Kovacic does not directly respond to questions surrounding the Oct. 20 arrest of Carlos Bolanos, who was later released without charge.
In that encounter, the person filming the video — George Cardenas — repeatedly asks the ICE agents why they are in the home without a warrant, a seeming violation of Fourth Amendment protections.
The Democrats wrote that Oregonians are “deeply concerned by these aggressive actions,”and that ICE should be held accountable if there was wrongdoing.
Kovacic said ICE agents are up-to-date on constitutional rights.
“ICE officers participate in mandatory bi-annual Fourth Amendment training,” wrote Kovacic, “as well as refresher training prior to participating in large-scale enforcement actions.”
The ACLU of Oregon called ICE’s letter “alarming.”
“It suggests that they are not prepared to do anything differently or take accountability for these violations,” ACLU of Oregon Legal Director Mat dos Santos said in a statement. “They have not even apologized to Mr. Andrade-Tafolla and his wife for unfairly profiling, detaining, and questioning them over a month ago.”