Within minutes, police arrived at the home outside Seattle. They determined that the suspect had indeed trespassed onto Rodriguez’s property, but they had no probable cause to arrest him, they said.
Then the officers asked Rodriguez for his identification. For about 14 years, Rodriguez had been living in the country illegally. He knew he lacked legal documents, but he agreed to give his name to the authorities, assuming it was for routine reporting purposes, Cortes said.
Moments later, the officers handcuffed Rodriguez and placed him into the back of a patrol car. A search for his name in the National Criminal Information Center database indicated an outstanding warrant against Rodriguez, police said.
Rodriguez overheard an officer discussing by speakerphone with someone on the other end of the line. It was Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Cortes said.
“Do you want us to bring him to you?” the officer asked, Rodriguez later recalled.
“That would be great,” the voice responded.
Minutes later, the officers left Rodriguez at a nearby ICE field office. Rodriguez was shackled and later taken to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, one of the largest detention facilities in the nation.
Rodriguez remains in detention, awaiting a possible deportation to Honduras, which could take place in a matter of days.
Responding to a wave of outrage over the case, the Tukwila Police Department wrote in a lengthy statement on Facebook that officers misinterpreted the nature of the warrant against Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, the police department wrote, “proactively acknowledged that he had a warrant.” Officers confirmed that there was an outstanding warrant issued by ICE. They believed the order was a criminal warrant and “followed standard protocol and procedure as they would for a warrant of any type.”
It was later determined the warrant was administrative in nature, but it showed up in the NCIC database as if it were a criminal warrant.
According to Cortes, Rodriguez first interacted with immigration authorities in Texas shortly after he entered the country illegally in 2004. From that encounter, Rodriguez was supposed to attend a mandatory court hearing. But he never received a notice about the hearing, Cortes said, possibly because he was moving from one address to another.
That missed court hearing is what prompted Rodriguez’s removal order, Cortes said. He said his client has no other crimes on his record, aside from speeding tickets and minor driving infractions.
ICE representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Following Rodriguez’s detention, Tukwila Chief of Police Bruce Linton issued a directive to the department that, going forward, officers will not respond to administrative warrants issued by ICE, nor will it collaborate with the agency, the police statement read. The police department has also since verified with ICE that administrative deportation orders like Rodriguez’s are routinely being entered into the criminal database in the same way any criminal warrant would be, police said.
“We may be encountering more of these types of warrants in the future,” the police statement read.
The father’s detention has heightened anxieties among immigrant communities in the Seattle area and beyond. Across the country, police departments have reported a decrease in crime reporting in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods. Advocates say President Trump’s efforts to ramp up immigration enforcement have made undocumented immigrants more hesitant to engage with police departments, fearing the risk of deportation.
Rodriguez’s case has led to an even greater distrust of law enforcement among undocumented communities, Cortes said. “This further pushes them into the margins.”
He said: “The sentiment we’re hearing now is, ‘If this happened to him when he called, how do we know it’s not going to happen to me?’ ”
Tukwila police do not respond to ICE requests to detain individuals on their behalf, nor do they respond to requests to notify ICE of contacts they may have with undocumented immigrants, the police statement read.
“As a practice and per our policy, we do not inquire as to the nationality or immigration status of anyone that we contact during the course of our duties,” the statement continued.
Although the police agency has taken corrective measures, relief options for Rodriguez are limited. His lawyer has requested a stay of removal for him on humanitarian grounds, as he is the sole provider for his partner and three young children.
Cortes is also looking into whether immigration officials in Texas failed to notify Rodriguez of his court date back in 2004. They will also look into requesting asylum for Rodriguez, who came to the United States when he was 18, fleeing generational poverty in Honduras. In the years since, the country has become increasingly violent. Rodriguez’s brother was fatally shot, and his friend was brutally killed, Cortes said.
“The only thing we’re asking for is that Wilson gets the opportunity to plea his case before a judge,” Cortes said.
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