Kansas Citians concerned with KCPD’s involvement in ICE arrest

Agencies gather Tuesday, July 23, 2019 to hold a press conference regarding the July 22, 2019 ICE incident in Kansas City. PHOTO/Elizabeth Orosco

 

KANSAS CITY – Many Kansas City residents are concerned following the July 22, 2019 video that live-streamed ICE agents breaking a man’s car window with his girlfriend and two young children in the backseat.

Officers with Kansas City Police Department were called to assist the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in their arrest of Florencio Millan-Vazquez, 32, of Mexico. It leaves many in Kansas City asking a lot of questions regarding immigrant rights.

The 32-minute video was filmed by Millan-Vazquez’s partner, Cheyenne Hoyt, a U.S. citizen, outside their apartment complex in Kansas City. ICE agents blocked their vehicle, told Millan-Vazquez they had a warrant for his arrest, and asked him to exit the vehicle. He refused, asked to see the warrant, and proceeded to try and call his lawyer.

ICE agents did not produce a warrant and said it was a “warrantless arrest.”

KCPD was called in for backup and once on scene, an officer told Millan-Vazquez to “roll [the window] down or I’m going to break it.”

Millan-Vazquez stated that the car was his personal property and they could not break the window. The officer responded by saying “I don’t care whose property it is, they are here to talk to you and take you back to where you need to go… either way, it’s going our way, not yours.”

After about 20 minutes, an ICE agent breaks the glass window and Millan-Vazquez is removed from the car, placed on the ground and handcuffed. The couple’s 11-year-old son can be heard in the video crying and saying “I want daddy.”

Millan-Vazquez was taken into custody by the ICE agent and transported to an ICE facility, not KCPD.

Shawn Neudauer, ICE spokesman, had this to say regarding the incident:

On July 22, 2019, deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested Florencio Millan-Vazquez, 32, an illegal alien from Mexico, following a vehicle stop in Kansas City, Missouri. Millan-Vazquez was an immigration fugitive at the time of his ICE arrest. He has a prior criminal history that includes misdemeanor offenses.  In 2011, a federal immigration judge granted him voluntary departure. Millan-Vazquez complied with the judge’s order by returning to Mexico. However, five days after he returned to Mexico, he was encountered by immigration officials after he illegally re-entered the United States under an assumed name. He was issued an expedited removal order and removed (deported) from the U.S. Millan-Vazquez remains in ICE custody pending removal to Mexico. During the July 22, 2019, encounter with ICE officers, Millan-Vazquez was uncooperative and refused to exit his vehicle or follow lawfully issued commands issued by ICE and local police. After attempting to negotiate with Millan-Vazquez for about 25 minutes, the ICE officers were left with no other choice than make the arrest by physically removing him from the vehicle.

Neudauer said the ICE agents were in full compliance with the law.

According to Title 8 U.S. Code, Section 1357 entitled “Powers of immigration officers and employees,” any officer or employee of the Service authorized under regulations prescribed by the Attorney General shall have power, without warrant, “to interrogate any alien or person believed to be an alien as to his right to be or to remain in the United States and to make arrests for felonies which have been committed and which are cognizable under any law of the United States regulating the admission, exclusion, expulsion, or removal of aliens.”

Full section can be found here.

Sergeant Jacob Becchina, spokesperson for Kansas City Police said the ICE agent was attempting to make a car stop and apprehension of a male subject, who refused to exit the vehicle. Since the agent was in Kansas City, he called KCPD for assistance.

“This happens from time to time, other local, county, state or federal agencies may be conducting enforcement activity in Kansas City and may find themselves in need of assistance.  When called, we will respond to back up an officer in this capacity, to ensure their safety and the safety of those around the incident. Many times other officers/agents may be on their own and find themselves in the situation where they need assistance. That was the case in this response today. There was a long process to try to talk the male subject out of the car willingly, both KCPD officers and the ICE agent attempted to talk the male into exiting the vehicle.  After those attempts failed the ICE agent broke the window to the car to gain access and take the male into custody.”

According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), in March 2017, ICE issued a new policy regarding immigration detainers and administrative immigration warrants, or “ICE warrants.” This policy directs that all ICE detainers shall be accompanied by immigration warrants (“ICE warrants”) signed by an authorized ICE officer. They are sometimes called “administrative warrants.”

ILRC website continues to state that “an ICE warrant directs various federal immigration enforcement agents to arrest the person named in the warrant. Because it is not issued by a judge, an ICE warrant does not give the immigration enforcement officer the authority to demand entry to a home or private space in order to make the arrest. ICE warrants do not generally provide a basis for a local or state law enforcement officer or agency to arrest or detain anyone. Federal regulations allow a specific list of federal immigration agents to execute administrative immigration arrest warrants.”

According to ICE, these administrative warrants are not signed by a judge, but do give ICE agents authority to execute administrative arrests.

An annotated ICE administrative warrant can be found here.

In a July 23, 2019 Facebook post, Mayor Sly James pointed to the current administration in Washington, D.C.

“There has been a lot of concern and many questions regarding an ICE arrest in KC on Monday–This issue is about politics and the hate-filled ideologies of the current administration in Washington. Kansas City welcomes everyone. This is our city, and these are our neighbors and our friends. We look out for each other. We mourn together, and we celebrate together. And we must continue to stand together to demand equal justice under the law for all our residents, no matter where we come from or how we got here.”

Indian Mound Neighborhood Association in Northeast Kansas City sent a letter to KCPD Chief Rick Smith, the Board of Police Commissioners, as well as Mayor-Elect Quinton Lucas.

The letter, in its entirety, reads as follows:

As one of the most diverse communities within the greater Kansas City area, we find it necessary to draft this letter expressing our grave concern regarding the coordinated efforts of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the July 22, 2019 incident within the East Patrol Division.

As crime is a constant challenge for the entire City, we find it difficult to believe the Department’s number one concern and top priority was to deploy a significant amount of resources to assist ICE with the deportation of an unarmed father, with his family, on his way to his child’s doctor appointment. In the 30-minute video, ICE clearly and repeatedly refused to produce an arrest or search warrant, despite multiple requests from the adults in the car. Upon arrival, two KCPD sergeants engaged the person of interest and tried at least 21 times to break the window to apprehend the individual. We are unclear what crime KCPD is enforcing that would cause this level of engagement from supervisory officers. Furthermore, there are at least two more KCPD officers dispatched to the scene to assumingly provide backup to this situation, creating a scenario where four KCPD officers and two ICE agents are present to address a situation with two adults, a six-month-old, and an adolescent child.

As Board members, it is not our place to question whether the presence of this person is legal or not, but it is our job as neighbors and taxpayers of a diverse community to hold our Police Department accountable. As 911 response times and violent crime continue to rise within the Kansas City area, we find it difficult to understand why so many officers were prioritized to support these federal officials. As the person of interest continued to request a judicial warrant, it appears that KCPD disregarded his Constitutionally protected rights and instead escalated the situation, at one point even laughing as the request was made. KCPD’s compliance to execute federal immigration laws is gravely concerning to our community.

We all have worked diligently to build bridges within our community in an effort to focus our attention on violent crimes, yet situations like this only further divide our community. We request you draft a clear policy for officer coordination with ICE that limits KCPD’s participation to situations involving only violent perpetrators, which have been submitted to and approved by the Board of Police Commissioners. This prioritization will ensure that KCPD officers are not executing federal immigration law and instead focus this commitment to our neighbors and make it clear that KCPD is not being used as an extension of ICE. we welcome your response to these requests or to provide clarity so we can continue to tell our diverse and amazing community that KCPD officers are not out to “get them,” as today’s vide does not provide that comfort. Ultimately, Chief Smith made a commitment to the immigrant community that KCPD would not comply with ICE to enforce federal immigration law. The subversive compliance observed on July 22 indicates that the Department has no intention to uphold his commitment.

Patricia Hernandez, Administrative Vice President of the Indian Mound Neighborhood Association said Indian Mound would like clarification on what happened.

“We were told previously in 2017 that KCPD would not be complying with ICE so we were wondering what happened,” she said. “We need clarification on that. We like to be the voice for folks who don’t have a voice and who maybe are afraid to have a voice. We want our neighbors to feel safe in any aspect. That’s very important to us. There are neighbors that I haven’t seen in weeks because they are scared to come outside. I have neighbors who are full citizens that are afraid to come outside because of their skin color. That should not be happening. We are a very inclusive, diverse community. I think it would be best if they backed up their previous statement.”

Geoff Jolley, Indian Mound resident and former District Director and General Counsel for Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, said he thought video was disturbing.

“My concern, as a Northeast resident, is that I have a lot of neighbors who we have worked hard to develop a strong relationship with KCPD over the last few years and for them to start seeing KCPD participate in, what I believe to be illegalized actions, it’s disturbing,” he said. “I would encourage KCPD to take a look into if they need to be a part of it, if ICE is going to violate someone’s Fourth Amendment constitutional rights, which I believe they did, we don’t want to be a part of that. I hope KCPD will review their protocols and after watching this video, take a different approach, because I think it creates a distrust between the community that we have worked hard to establish.”

Various agencies met for a press conference Tuesday afternoon, July 23, 2019, to address the situation. The event included Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation (AIRR), Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, KS/MO Dreamers Alliance (KSMODA), and El Centro. Hoyt, Millan-Vazquez’s partner, was also in attendance.

The agencies asked for KCPD to disassociate itself from ICE, not offer or support ICE with arrests, and hold the KCPD officers who were on scene fully accountable.

“It is damaging community trust and safety,” one representative with KSMODA said.

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