Oregon attorneys Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on behalf of Isidro Andrade-Tafolla, a U.S. citizen who was briefly detained by the agency outside of the Washington County Courthouse in 2017 after being mistaken for someone else.
“Isidro was targeted by ICE agents and racially profiled,” Leland Baxter-Neal, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, said in a press conference Wednesday. “ICE and its agents need to be held accountable for what they did to Isidro and his family.”
Attorneys with the ACLU of Oregon and a law office in Eugene originally filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on behalf of Andrade-Tafolla last year. Now that the agency has processed it, that complaint can finally be filed in federal court, the attorneys said.
Andrade-Tafolla was at the Washington County Courthouse with his wife Renee in September of 2017 where ICE agents were looking for an undocumented man recently charged with driving under the influence, according to previous reporting by OPB.
As Andrade-Tafolla and his wife left the courthouse, “they didn’t know it but ICE agents in plain clothes followed them outside,” one of Andrade-Tafolla’s attorneys, Caitlin Mitchell, said. “Ultimately six agents surrounded them, boxed in their pickup truck with their vehicles, told Mr. Andrade-Tafolla that they had his mugshot, which they didn’t in fact have, and aggressively demanded identification.”
“The individual in the mugshot did not resemble Mr. Andrade-Tafolla, except that he, like Mr. Andrade-Tafolla, had brown skin,” the original administrative complaint states.
The ICE agents refused to identify themselves even after being repeatedly asked to do so, and they did not have a warrant for Mr. Andrade-Tafolla’s arrest, Mitchell said.
One of the agents eventually looked at the mugshot and confirmed that the man was indeed not Andrade-Tafolla, and the agents left.
Andrade-Tafolla has lived in Washington County since he was a teenager and worked for the county for more than 20 years, Mitchell said.
The attorneys filed the federal complaint Wednesday under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
“Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, federal officials can be held liable when they break state laws prohibiting false arrest and false imprisonment the way that they did here,” Mitchell said.
Andrade-Tafolla said he is still affected by what happened three years ago.
“This incident was not only wrong, but terrifying and humiliating,” Andrade-Tafolla said. “It’s been hard to move forward — trying to figure out why this happened to me because of the color of my skin.”
He continued: “It has caused a lot of stress, emotions that have caused me to seek professional help. … It has scarred my life forever. This should have never happened to me or to anyone. I will never forget it. I will never forgive it.”
In their administrative complaint last year, attorneys requested compensation from ICE in the amount of $100,000.
They are still requesting compensatory damages, as well as the costs of attorney fees and whatever other relief the court determines in the new complaint. That total amount will be determined during the legal proceedings.