Wilson Rodriguez Macarreno and his family heard an intruder so he called police for help. About an hour later, he was in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Rodriguez’s detention Thursday sent shockwaves through the Seattle suburb of Tukwila and is now garnering national attention from immigration advocates, warning that the way authorities handled the case could make immigrants scared to call police to report crimes.
Early Thursday morning, Rodriguez saw someone trespassing on his property in Tukwila. In the last few weeks, someone had been repeatedly trying to break in to his home and car.
So, he called 911.
Police arriving on the scene apprehended a trespasser, according to Rodriguez’s attorney, Luis Cortes.
Officers then put Rodriguez in handcuffs after he gave them his ID for what he thought was “report purposes,” the lawyer said. Officers saw he had an outstanding warrant when they ran his information through the National Crime Information Center database.
Less than an hour after making the trespassing call, Rodriguez faced an uncertain future as he was driven to an ICE field office in Seattle for processing. His attorney said ICE never arrived to pick up his client, so Tukwila police volunteered to take him to the ICE field office.
Police told The Seattle Times they did not have probable cause to arrest the trespasser.
CNN’s calls to the Tukwila Police Department for comment have gone unreturned.
“As with every incident, we establish the identity of those involved,” the department said in a Facebook post, explaining why it ran Rodriguez’s information through the database. In a separate post, the department said that “officers believed that they were executing a valid order from a judge in the form of a criminal warrant.”
In reality, officers executed an administrative ICE warrant.
Tukwila police said on Facebook that ICE told the department that it’s been entering administrative warrants into the database the same as criminal warrants. And that “we may be encountering more of these types of warrants in the future.”
Advocates warn of damaged trust
Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said the ICE warrants are a big problem.
“When people think of a warrant, (they think) a judge has signed off on it. An independent fact finder has said whatever the police officer or law enforcement said appears to meet a threshold,” Barón said. “That’s the thing with these ICE ‘warrants,’ they’re not approved by an immigration judge. They’re not approved by a federal judge. Nobody independently reviews them.”
CNN reached out to ICE to respond to Barón’s characterization of the warrants. While not immediately commenting, an ICE representative said the agency would respond Tuesday.
In the past, ICE officials have said coordinating immigration arrests with local law enforcement allows authorities to avoid “risks to public safety and officer safety.”
ICE warrants for civil immigration violations issued by US immigration officers are administrative and not reviewed by any independent authority that examines the case or the facts.
“In the criminal justice system, it would never fly,” Barón said.
Barón said even though the Tukwila police officers were mistaken, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.
“I think that there is an obligation on local law enforcement to be paying attention to these issues,” he said. “Local law enforcement (needs) to educate themselves.”
Tukwila police said on Facebook that they have instituted a new directive to prevent such an incident from happening again.
But Barón’s main concern isn’t the blurred lines between the criminal and administrative warrants. He said he believes what happened will strike fear into immigrant communities so they won’t call police when they need help or when they have information about possible crimes.
“It’s not just going to hurt immigrant communities,” he said. “It’s going to hurt all of us.”
Speaking at a City Council meeting Monday evening, Tukwila Assistant Police Chief Rick Mitchell said the department will work to reassure the community, “We are there for them.”
“It is vital that every member of the community feels safe and comfortable when calling our police department for help,” Mitchell said. “Our mission as a department has always been to welcome and educate those that come from others countries that are oftentimes wary or scared of law enforcement due to their interactions with police in their home country.”
Lawyer: Immigrant came to US fleeing violence
Records show Rodriguez is now being held in a detention facility in Tacoma, Washington, awaiting deportation processing. His attorney said authorities denied his bond and would not allow his release under ankle monitoring.
Rodriguez entered the United States from Honduras in 2004, fleeing violence that took his brother and a friend, said his attorney, Cortes. Rodriguez has said his brother died from a gunshot to the head and his friend was found chopped to pieces. CNN could not verify these claims.
Rodriguez works as a carpenter to support his family, which includes 3-year-old twins and a 1-year-old, according to the lawyer.
Cortes said ICE apprehended his client in Texas in 2004, but Rodriguez missed his court date — he did not have an address to send the court notice. Cortes said his client has no criminal history.
Cortes is working to stop his client’s deportation and is looking at reopening the case in which Rodriguez missed the court date, but the lawyer’s future is also unclear — he is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipient.