Wilson Rodriguez Macarreno and his family were in trouble, so he did what he knew to do — call police for help. About an hour later, he was in ICE custody.
Rodriguez’s detention on Thursday sent shockwaves through the Seattle-suburb and is now garnering national attention from advocates, warning 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, Washington. In the last few weeks, someone had been repeatedly trying to break-in to his home and car.
So, he called 9-1-1.
Police arriving on scene apprehended a trespasser according to Rodriguez’s lawyer Luis Cortes.
After giving officers his ID for what he thought was “report purposes,” police put Rodriguez in handcuffs, his lawyer said. After running his information through the National Crime Information Center database, officers saw he had an outstanding warrant.
Less than an hour after making a simple trespassing call, Rodriguez was headed toward an uncertain future as he was driven to an ICE field office in Seattle for processing. His lawyer says ICE never arrived to pick up his client, so Tukwila police officers 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 on this story have gone unreturned.
“As with every incident, we establish the identity of those involved,” the Tukwila Police Department said in a Facebook post, explaining why they ran his information through the database. In a separate Facebook post, the department says, “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 say in their Facebook post ICE told to them 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, says 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,” he says. “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 spokesperson said they would respond on 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 issued 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,” says Barón, who hesitates to even call them warrants.
Barón says even though the Tukwila police officers were mistaken, their 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 says. “Local law enforcement need to educate themselves.”
Tukwila Police say they have instituted a new directive to prevent an incident like this from happening again.
But the blurred lines between the criminal and administrative warrants is not Barón’s main concern. He believes this will strike fear into immigrant communities to not call police when they need help or when they have information about possible crimes.
“It’s not just going to hurt immigrant communities,” he says. “It’s going to hurt all of us.”
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 lawyer says authorities denied his bond and would not allow his release under ankle monitoring.
Rodriguez entered the US from Honduras in 2004, fleeing violence his lawyer says took his brother and a friend. Rodriguez says his brother died from a gunshot to the head and his friend was found chopped to pieces. CNN could not verify these claims.
He works as a carpenter to support his family that includes 3-year-old twins and 1-year-old, according to his lawyer.
His lawyer says that ICE did apprehend him in Texas in 2004, but Rodriguez missed his court date — he did not have an address to send the court notice. Cortes says his client has no criminal history.
CNN contacted ICE for their record of Rodriguez’s detention and to confirm he had no criminal history. An ICE spokesperson did not immediately respond for comment, saying they would respond on Tuesday.
Cortes is actively working to stop his client’s deportation and is looking at re-opening the case in which Rodriguez missed the court date, but his future is also unclear — he is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipient.