Cop’s first reaction to a man hit by truck is to interrogate him about his immigration status

Cop’s first reaction to a man hit by truck is to interrogate him about his immigration status


Originally published by ThinkProgress

Esther Yu Hsi Lee

Marcos Antonio Huete, a 31-year-old Honduran immigrant, was biking to work when he was hit by a pickup truck last month. As he laid sprawled on the grassy sidewalk with his bike still on the roadway, a police officer called to the scene approached to ask for his immigration status before anyone offered him medical care, according to Telemundo, which obtained recently-released body cam footage of the incident.

“You illegal? Are you illegal? Citizen or no? You speak English? You got ID? You got a passport, visa, what,” an officer asked Huete, according to the footage taken by his body camera. A second officer who arrived on the scene later asked whether Huete needed an ambulance.

Huete called his sister, who took him to a hospital where he was given crutches and pain medication. After he was discharged from the hospital, an office told them to return to the accident scene, where Huete was fined $75 by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHP) for “obstructing/hindering traffic/highway.” The police incident report determined that Huete had “darted out in front” of the woman’s GMC Sierra pickup truck and the police did not charge the driver.

Back at the accident scene, federal immigration agents showed up to detain Huete. He is now awaiting deportation proceedings at the Krome Detention Center in Miami, Florida. Huete has a deportation order from 2010 and has criminal charges for illegal re-entry into the country, according to Univision.

Border Protection agents told Univision that they were called in to “assist in the identification” of Huete, but that communication between the two agencies is “rare.” The Monroe Sheriff’s Office does not have an official policy to notify the federal authorities when they arrest people suspected of being undocumented.

“The fact that we do not have papers does not mean we do not have rights,” Huete’s sister Olga said in an interview.

The first police officer’s initial response to Huete’s injury is shocking given that his immigration status should have been a secondary concern. Indeed, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Code of Ethics expects officers to “treat people with dignity, good faith and equity; without discrimination; and have consideration for the values and cultural sensitivities of all groups within the community affected by my work.” There was also no indication that Huete, given his injury, could have fled the scene.

This incident highlights the fact that any interaction with local law enforcement officials can lead to immigrants being turned over to federal authorities for deportation proceedings — even when injured after being struck by a car. And it adds to the heightened tension between the immigrant community and local law enforcement officials since President Donald Trump took office.

The Trump administration has threatened to crack down on “sanctuary cities,” which choose not to turn over suspected undocumented immigrants to federal authorities, by pulling federal funding pulled from these cities’ crucial programs. But there’s evidence that this kind of local-level enforcement of immigration policies has resulted in a drop in crime reporting by immigrants across the country.

As federal authorities crank up the arrest and detention of undocumented immigrants, a chilling effect has taken over immigrants who would rather let crimes go unreported for fear of being asked to present their immigration documents. At least 78 percent of immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking have feared sharing their concerns about contacting the police, according to a recent survey by the advocacy group Tahirih Center.

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