Attorneys Say ICE ‘Abducted’ Men, Faced Down Crowd Demanding Their Release

The local district attorney said of the incident: “I’ve never been so disgusted with my government, and so proud of my community.”

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

(CN) — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Field Director David Drasin refused an immigration attorney’s demand to meet with men seized from the streets of Bend, Oregon, and held on a bus for hours as protesters tried to block the bus from moving, according to a new lawsuit.

Federal agents in unmarked white vans rounded up two men on Wednesday and held them in a Bend parking lot. But before the vans could depart, a crowd of hundreds gathered to demand the men’s release. Hours of protest followed.

The families of the men watched as their fathers and husbands were held in vans with closed windows in 80-degree weather. They released a statement, which was read by Janet Llerandi-Gonzalez of Mecca Bend, according to plaintiff Innovation Law Lab.

“Consider the emotional trauma being inflicted not only on us as adults, but also on our children who witness this injustice,” Llerandi-Gonzalez read. “We are hard-working members of the community that have lost our jobs due to Covid, and our husbands are put at risk daily. We are simply trying to provide for our families, but because of the color of our skin and because of our country of origin that does not justify what has happened here today.” 

Bend City Councilor Barb Campbell blocked the unmarked vans with her parked car.

“I am here because people are being picked off the streets and detained for the crime of wanting to work hard,” Campbell told reporters, according to a statement from Innovation Law Lab. “These are good people who have immigrated to our country. We are right now trying to empty our jails and our prisons because they could be hotspots for Covid-19. The idea of my taxpayer money going toward harassing these individuals is intolerable.”

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel weighed in about the incident and ensuing protest via Twitter late on Wednesday night.

“I’ve never been so disgusted by my government, and so proud of my community,” Hummel wrote.

Volunteer immigration attorney Erin Carter arrived and tried to speak to the two men through the closed windows of the vans.

“Tell them I want a lawyer,” one man, identified in the lawsuit as J.A.C.S., told Carter.

Another immigration attorney standing nearby, Micaela Guthrie, told an ICE officer there that she wanted to speak with the two men. But the officer wouldn’t respond to Guthrie’s request.

Steven Manning, executive director of Innovation Law Lab, a pro bono immigration firm, called Drasin. Manning asked to speak to the two men before they were transferred out of Oregon. But Drasin denied the request and told Manning that ICE would move the men to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, without first letting them speak to attorneys, according to the lawsuit filed late Wednesday night in federal court. There, they will be “functionally denied any meaningful opportunity” to consult attorneys, according to the complaint.

But U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut on Thursday denied Innovation Law Lab’s motion for a temporary restraining order that was meant to keep the men in Oregon. That’s because Assistant U.S. Attorney Austin Rice-Stitt told Immergut at Thursday’s scheduling hearing that the government had already transferred the men to the Tacoma Detention Facility.

There, the pro bono immigration attorney organization won’t be able to represent the men because its funding doesn’t apply to out-of-state cases, Innovation attorney Nadia Dahab told Immergut.

Rice-Stitt told Immergut that deportation proceedings would begin immediately, but would not be expedited. He added he wasn’t aware of any legal authority that requires the Department of Homeland Security to provide access to a lawyer between the time a person is detained and transported to a holding facility.

“In our perspective, DHS is not doing anything abnormal in this case,” Rice-Stitt said. “They’re doing their standard procedure of transporting a detained individual to Tacoma.”

But Dahab said representation is most important at the moment of detention.

“The access we requested on the ground in Bend last night was access to a custody determination that now can’t be undone,” Dahab said. “They could have been released on the spot had we been able to provide meaningful representation at that time.”

Immergut denied Innovation’s motion for a temporary restraining order.

“Based on this record, it has not been made clear that defendants did something wrong or even out of the ordinary, honestly, that they’ve been allowed to do,” Immergut said. “I typically wouldn’t micromanage where they would take an individual that they allege is undocumented.”

She set another hearing for Sept. 3 on Innovation’s motion for a preliminary injunction. Then, she said, both attorneys can more fully flesh out their arguments — assuming the men aren’t deported before then.

“Yes, I’ll check on that,” Rice-Stitt told Immergut.

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