Originally published by Yahoo
A Washington police department has come under fire after turning an immigrant who called police for help over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
The Tukwila Police Department said officers were not acting “with malice” when they arrested the man after they mistook an administrative warrant issued by ICE for a judicial warrant.
The man had called police with concerns over a “suspicious person” trespassing onto his property at around 5:30a.m. on Thursday, police said in a Facebook post.
“As with every incident, we establish the identity of those involved. During our normal process of verifying the identities, an outstanding warrant issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement was discovered,” the department said.
Tukwila Police said the man “proactively acknowledged” that he had a warrant and was allowed by officers to contact a lawyer and call a friend before officers transferred him to ICE agents, who took him into custody.
“In this particular case, officers were informed there was a warrant, verified that the warrant was valid and transferred the individual named in the warrant over to the issuing authority,” police said.
Only after the man’s arrest did they realize the warrant had been an administrative one from ICE, rather than a judicially issued warrant.
A judicial warrant is an official court document signed by a judge, meaning “there has been due process backed by probable cause,” Susan Gottehrer of the New York Civil Liberties Union explained in a post on immigration non-profit Long Island Wins’s website.
“An administrative warrant is simply a document signed by an ICE agent,” she says, adding that it does not “pass constitutional muster.”
Gottehrer adds that “you do not have to open the door” if agents show up at your home with an administrative warrant.
While the department did not issue an apology over the incident, it said in an updated post that its officers will no longer be responding to administrative warrants issued by ICE or collaborate with the agency.
The department said it has made other police chiefs in the region aware of the issues they may encounter in the future around warrants and also said it had met with immigrant advocates to “explain the situation.”
“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,” police said.
“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,” the department added.
But immigration advocates have warned that the damage has already been done, asserting instances like this one will create more anxiety for immigrants who are already fearful of arrest under the Trump administration’s current crackdown.
“Every time people hear about this, they’re going to wonder, well, if I call another police department is the same thing going to happen to me?” Jorge Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, told Kiro 7.
While Barón welcomed the department’s decision to stop collaborating with ICE, he said he’s “disappointed” over officers’s failure to recognize that the warrant was administrative.
“I think it’s profoundly damaging and troubling that this occurred,” he said. “It’s good obviously that they’re changing the policy and they’re not going to do this again, but I have to say I’m disappointed and—a little disturbed they didn’t know about this.”