An attorney representing a pregnant mother and her family was caught on camera being shoved by an ICE agent, resulting in cuts and a broken foot, according to KTLA sister station WDAF in Kansas City, Missouri.
It all happened early Tuesday morning outside an ICE Enforcement and Removal Operation field office in Kansas City.
Before dawn, two immigration attorneys were set to meet with ICE agents in the office’s parking lot to hand over a 3-year-old boy named Noah. He and his mom Kenia Bautista have been separated for weeks, as both awaited deportation. But the exchange didn't go down as planned.
Bautista — who is also six months pregnant — and her husband Luis have been living in Texas. When the couple traveled to Iowa to pick up a relative in mid-May, they were stopped by Missouri Highway Patrol and asked to provide proof of citizenship.
“I don't know about you but when I get stopped, that doesn't happen to me or the passengers in my car,” said Andrea Martinez, the family's lawyer.
Kenia accidentally missed an immigration court hearing, which led to an order for removal. She's been detained in ICE custody without her child ever since.
“He thought his mom abandoned him," Martinez said. "And we were real excited he was going to get reunited with her.”
Luis and the attorneys were bringing Noah to the ICE field office so he could be deported to Honduras with his mother. But when they arrived, the lawyers were told the exchange must happen inside the building, and an ICE agent shoved Martinez away.
Martinez fell, cutting her left foot and knee and breaking her right foot, neither of which got medical treatment for hours. All the commotion was witnessed by Luis and little Noah.
“He was excited to see his mom. Really missed his mom and to have that moment be so tarnished by an ICE officer assaulting us, it really scared him and I think further traumatized him,” Martinez said.
Martinez was eventually allowed to meet with her clients and Luis inside.
“If with cameras rolling and 20 or 30 activists watching, ICE does this, pushes an attorney down onto the ground and breaks her foot, imagine what they're doing when nobody is watching,” said Megan Galicia, an attorney with Martinez's firm.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement to WDAF Tuesday afternoon.
"Early this morning an incident occurred at the Kansas City ICE office while ICE ERO officers were attempting to reunite a mother with a family member. We take any allegations against ICE personnel very seriously and are looking into the matter. Until a review of the documentary evidence is completed, ICE can issue no further public comment on the matter."
Missouri Highway Patrol says it is not unusual to ask for the identity of all passengers inside a vehicle during a traffic stop, and any suspicion of criminal activity, including illegal immigration, can be considered probable cause to require identification. However, unlawful presence in the U.S. is a civil, not criminal, violation.
Kenia and Noah are now heading back to Honduras without suitcases ICE agents allegedly made them leave behind. Luis was also detained by ICE and now sits in a central Missouri jail.
The attorneys and a number of activists are hoping to raise awareness of the plight of families caught in a messy immigration debate.
“The truth is this injustice and this family separation is a problem right here in Kansas City and around the interior of the country just like it is on the border,” Martinez said.
Kenia’s attorneys believe she still has an excellent asylum case, based on a history of abuse by her ex-husband, who works for the Honduran police. If she chooses to pursue asylum to return to the U.S., she must appear at the border to make that request, which can be done even with a removal order in place.
However, recent moves in the Trump administration may complicate matters. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said domestic violence may no longer be considered grounds for asylum.