Oregon's two senators are demanding an explanation from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after viewing a video showing plainclothes ICE agents arresting a man without a warrant.
The cellphone video was shot by a co-worker of the arrested man as the two were renovating a house in Portland, Oregon, on October 19. Posted on Facebook, the video has gotten more than 1.1 million views.
In the video, "plainclothes agents appear to have illegally entered a private residence, exclaiming, 'We don't need a warrant to come in this home,' " Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, wrote to ICE's regional director on October 20.
"Americans do not lose their constitutional protection from warrantless search and seizure simply because ICE believes they may be immigrants," they wrote.
The nearly eight-minute video begins when three ICE agents are already inside the house. One of them demands identification from the man, Carlos Bolanos, who is later arrested.
When Bolanos asks why, the agent says, "I have reason to believe you are not in the country legally, all right?"
At this point, George Cardenas, who is shooting the scene on his cellphone, asks the agents why his friend is being arrested and what the charges are. But none of the agents provides an answer.
Cardenas tells the agents they are trespassing because the house is private property; the owners live in the basement, and their car is parked outside. But one of the agents maintains the house is a place of business and therefore an arrest warrant is not required.
"Well, you are breaking the law, basically, at this point," Cardenas says.
The exchange continues for several minutes before Bolanos is arrested, handcuffed and walked outside to a car.
Pattern of behavior?
"The alien at issue has been released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, pending further investigation regarding the circumstances of his arrest," ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe wrote to VOA. "The matter has been referred to the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility and the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General. The agency is reviewing this incident."
In their letter, the two senators ask for a copy of the inquiry results, an explanation of the "policies and practices" that led to the arrest, and details of what measures are being taken "to correct inappropriate and potentially unlawful behavior by agents involved in these incidents."
This is not the first time the senators have written to ICE about an immigration incident. They also sought an explanation after a U.S. citizen was approached and almost arrested near the courthouse in Hillsboro, Oregon, in late September.
According to reports, about 70 people had been protesting the arrest of two undocumented immigrants by ICE agents in front of the courthouse.
But Isidoro Andrade-Tafolia, a 20-year county road maintenance worker, was there with his wife on private business.
He was approached by a man and a woman who did not identify themselves but repeatedly asked for his name and identification.
"I gave them my name. They said they had a picture of me, that I wasn't here legally," Andrade-Tafolia told The Oregonian, "and when they showed my wife and I the picture, there was no resemblance except we were both Hispanic."
When other agents arrived, one in an ICE jacket, they realized their mistake and scattered.
In a reply to the senators' query about Andrade-Tafolia, ICE Assistant Director Raymond Kovacic wrote, "ICE identifies specific individuals for apprehension, removal, and in some cases, criminal prosecutions, through targeted enforcement."
But the senators dismiss that claim in their most recent letter: "The behavior of these agents in recent events, taken together, suggest that ICE's claim that these are 'targeted enforcement actions' is demonstrably untrue."
"Here is the reality in Oregon," Mat Dos Santos, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, wrote on the organization's website. "Under the Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is out of control. ICE has been prowling our county courthouses, harassing people based on the color of their skin, and tearing apart Oregon families."