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WASHINGTON -- An Oregon man who is a U.S. citizen said he thinks immigration agents questioned him as he left a courthouse because of “hatred to Latinos.”
Isidro Andrade-Tafolla, 46, was confronted by several Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents Monday outside a county courthouse in Washington County, Oregon.
The plainclothes agents stopped Andrade-Tafolla at his truck parked outside the courthouse and asked for his name and identification.
The encounter became heated as Andrade-Tafolla’s wife began questioning why her husband was being asked to turn over ID to men who had not explained who they were, according to video of the encounter provided by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.
Initially two agents were questioning Andrade-Tafolla, but the number grew.
The agents showed Andrade-Tafolla and his wife a cell phone photo and told him he was the man in the photo, Andrade-Tafolla said. “This is you. We got your picture,” he said they told him.
But the photo was of a much younger man who bore no resemblance, Andrade-Tafolla said.
“The only resemblance was he was brown,” Andrade-Tafolla said.
The incident has led the top Democrat on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who heads the immigration subcommittee, and two Democratic congressional members from Oregon to investigate. The lawmakers sent a letter asking several questions, including whether the agents followed proper policy.
Andrade-Tafolla said he had seen the plainclothes agents in the courthouse waiting in front of him and his wife. He said he thought he greeted one with a nod.
A group of people was protesting previous ICE arrests at the courthouse, but Andrade-Tafolla said he went about his business and headed for his car. He noticed a minivan parked incorrectly in front of his car and wondered about it. Then, the female agent he recognized as the woman he’d seen in the courthouse got out of the van and began questioning him.
A third agent joined the other two and decided he was not the person in the photo and the agents are seen on the video leaving quickly.
“ICE is doing what they are doing, not because they are immigration agents," he said. "I think it’s more hatred to the Latinos, because all the bad talk of us Latinos coming here to take their women, their jobs, that’s their view point, which is wrong."
Andrade-Tafolla said the female agent uttered a muffled “sorry” to him as she turned away but that was the extent of the apology for questioning him.
Andrade-Tafolla said Wednesday evening that he was just beginning to process “the feeling in my gut” from being made the center of attention and racially discriminated against based on his color and origin.
“I felt a sense of security, being a U.S. citizen, that nothing would ever touch me like this, and now it’s hard to swallow,” Andrade-Tafolla said. It’s difficult because of my family, not just me, my family. My wife, my kids. What do my kids have to look forward to being brown-skinned? I can deal with it, but I’m looking ahead. If this happens to me, when is it going to happen to my daughter?
Andrade-Tafolla said he wants to pursue legal action and planned to raise the issue with elected state and federal office holders.
Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for ICE, said officers and special agents “may encounter and engage with individuals whom they ultimately determine are not the intended arrest targets or possible witnesses” when they are doing “targeted enforcements.”
She said if a complaint is received alleging racial profiling, “it will be thoroughly investigated.”
“In this instance, our officers went to a specific location seeking a particular individual and interacted with someone who they believed resembled our arrest target," she said. "That’s a case of mistaken identity, not racial profiling."
NBC News requested a copy of the photo of the person agents were looking for, but Kice said the agency does not prospectively release names or images of “administrative arrestees and/or arrest targets” for privacy reasons.
The ACLU of Oregon and other groups have been monitoring ICE activity at the courthouse for several months, said Sarah Armstrong, a spokeswoman and an outreach director for ACLU of Oregon.
State and local leaders, including Oregon’s Chief Justice Tom Balmer, asked ICE in April to stop the arrests there.
“When our county courts are compromised by ICE and people can’t go to the courts as defendants, witnesses or to pay a traffic fine, our communities suffer,” Armstrong said.
ICE and the U.S. Border Patrol have been under scrutiny over arrests in sensitive places such as schools and shelters.
NPR reported this week that Border Patrol agents took into custody a couple that they first encountered waiting at a hospital in Harlingen, Texas.
The couple's ill infant needed specialized care at a Corpus Christi hospital, and Border Patrol agents said they'd allow them through a checkpoint on the route there if they agreed to be arrested once they arrived. The parents agreed.
Democrats have proposed legislation to prohibit immigration activity in places deemed sensitive locations such as schools and hospitals.