TUKWILA, Wash. -- An undocumented married father of three, Wilson Rodriguez Macarreno, faces deportation after calling 911 to report a possible break-in at his home last week.
Tukwila police officers turned Rodriguez Macarreno over to federal ICE agents, because a warrant came down in his name in a format that the Tukwila Police Department said the officers had never seen before.
Immigration attorney Luis Cortez is working quickly from his Kent office to try to prevent Rodriguez Macarreno's deportation.
But Rodriguez Macarreno is detained in Tacoma and faces deportation back to Honduras.
The undocumented Tukwila resident called 911 Thursday morning when he thought someone was trying to break into his home. Cortez says Tukwila police ran Rodriguez Macarreno’s ID, which is standard protocol. During that search, they discovered a warrant from 2004.
“That’s when the Tukwila PD arrested him at that point and kept him outside his house handcuffed for almost an hour and the Tukwila Police Department volunteered to take him to ICE,” says Cortez.
“He first had an encounter with immigration officers in 2004 when he came in and he was supposed to be given notice of a court date, except he didn’t receive this notice. He didn’t know about it and so he missed his court date and when he found out about it it’s much too late. And the 'warrant' came from missing that appointment,” says Cortez.
Cortez says this warrant is not for criminal reasons. It’s called an administrative warrant, issued because Rodriguez Macarreno never showed for that 2004 court date. The judge issued a deportation order. Cortez is now trying to have the case reopened before his client is deported back to Honduras, which he says could happen in just a matter of days.
“He’s going to be returned to a country that is considered the murder capital of the world. And a place he hasn’t been to in 14 years is something that is very scary for him. His family and friends have been brutally killed in Honduras. One of his friends was chopped up into pieces. His brother was shot. And so, as he talks to his mom in Honduras, she says you might not be able to come home because this is our reality here,” says Cortez.
At a Tukwila City Council meeting Monday night, Tukwila Assistant Police Chief Rick Mitchell said the department will work to regain the community's trust.
“It is vital that every member of the community feels safe and comfortable when calling our police department for help," Mitchell said. "We will continue this community engagement in the coming weeks to reassure our community and neighbors we are there for them. And to rebuild any trust that has been broken. 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. This statement and the details I’ve provided this evening are not intended to defend our actions or make excuses, but specifically to explain in more details the circumstances the that led to this unfortunate incident."
The police department assured both residents and the council that it will not be responding to these administrative warrants coming from ICE, and says they've warned other law enforcement agencies of the same.
Cortez says his client’s fate remains unclear and a lot is riding on what happens over the next few days.
“What happened with the Tukwila Police Department doesn’t just affect individuals in Tukwila, but it really sends a message to the rippling cities that this is what’s going to happen if you are undocumented and you call the police; they will also turn you in to ICE,” says Cortez.
The Tukwila Police Department also posted on their Facebook page:
“After the incident that occurred Thursday morning, Chief of Police Bruce Linton issued a directive to the entire Tukwila Police Department that, going forward, officers will not be responsive to administrative warrants issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, nor will it collaborate with the agency. While the Tukwila Police Department has had a long history of not getting involved in immigration-related issues, this directive clarifies the Department’s policy as it relates to the issue of administrative warrants such as the one that officers became aware of for the first time on Thursday. The Department does not respond to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement requests to detain individuals on their behalf. Nor do we respond to requests to notify them of contacts that we may have with undocumented immigrants. 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. Officers were notified of the directive Thursday evening and have been verbally updated at shift meetings.
"In the incident that we had on Thursday morning, officers believed that they were executing a valid order from a judge in the form of a criminal warrant. They followed standard protocol and procedure as they would for a warrant of any type. They did not act with malice or outside the scope of policy or procedure for handling a warrant. It was later determined that the warrant in question was administrative in nature and that it had been entered in the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database the same way a criminal warrant would have been entered. We have since verified with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials that administrative deportation orders of removal are in fact being entered into NCIC the same way criminal warrants would be and that we may be encountering more of these types of warrants in the future.
"Chief Linton and Deputy Chief Mitchell will make other police chiefs in the region aware of the nature of these administrative warrants and that other agencies may encounter them in the future as well. Mayor Ekberg is also reaching out to the mayors of other cities in the region to inform them of the incident and steps we are taking to ensure we are within the best practices for the region in dealing with these types of warrants moving forward.
"We have also met with immigrant advocates to explain the situation to them to ensure that they understand the circumstances surrounding this incident and that we will not be responding to these types of warrants from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement moving forward. We will continue this engagement in the coming weeks to reassure our community and neighbors and to rebuild trust. It is vital that every member of our community feel safe and comfortable calling the police for help. This is why we became police officers in the first place.
"The Tukwila Police Department has worked tirelessly over the past several years to develop and maintain relations with our large immigrant and refugee population. These relationships are important to the Department. Students in our school district speak more than 80 languages and we have one of the most diverse populations in the state. We have three officers in our ranks that were refugees themselves and we have a unit dedicated to community outreach and education. Our goal has been to welcome and educate those that come from other countries that are oftentimes wary and or scared of law enforcement due to their interactions with police in their home countries.”