UPDATE: Kansas Citians concerned over KCPD’s involvement in recent ICE arrest

Elizabeth Orosco
Northeast News

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.”

He was taken into custody by the ICE agent and transported to their 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,” 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,” or to “arrest any alien in the United States, if he has reason to believe that the alien is in the United States in violation of any such law or regulation and is likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained for his arrest. ”

Raymond Rico, volunteer attorney with Kansas/Missouri Dream Alliance (KSMODA), said the “and” in the above section is important.

“Both statues [A-2 and A-4], say that these are instances where there is likely to be an escape before a warrant can be obtained for his arrest,” said Rico. “I challenge anybody to say that Florencio was able to flee. He was boxed in by the front and back by ICE agents and then the police showed up. If you point to these provisions and say you don’t need a warrant, then that’s wrong. The proper way to remedy this would have been to go get a warrant in this matter.”

Rico also questions ICE’s statements regarding Florencio’s silence when being questioned.

In the video, when the ICE agent asks Florencio if he is here legally, Florencio remains silent. The ICE agent can then be heard saying “by you not answering me tells me you’re not.”

Rico said this is not right.

“Undocumented immigrants are people and have protections in the Fourth Amendment in this situation,” he said. “What they are trying to say is that his silence created probable cause that he was here illegally. If they are going try and say that silence equals probable cause that someone is undocumented, that means your right to remain silent doesn’t exist.”

According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center website, “everyone –both documented and undocumented persons –have rights in this country.”

Their website offers a“Know Your Rights” toolkit, which includes a “Know Your Rights” handout, a red card, a family preparedness plan, a train-the-trainer toolkit, tutorial videos, and a list of nonprofit legal service providers.

The ILRC website lists all rights immigrants have if they encounter ICE, which include the following:

“You have the right to remain silent. You can refuse to speak to an ICE agent. Do not answer any questions, especially about your birth place, immigration status or how you entered the United States.

You have the right to demand a warrant before letting anyone into your home. Do not open your door to authorities without a warrant. You do not need to open the door unless an ICE agent shows you a warrant signed by a judge with your specific and correct name and address on it. If they say they have one, do not open the door for them to show it to you. Ask them to slip it under the door or through a window.

You have the right to speak to a lawyer and the right to make a phone call. You have the right to refuse to sign anything before you talk to a lawyer. Do not sign anything.

That could eliminate your right to speak with a lawyer or have a hearing in front of an immigration judge. This may result in you being deported immediately without a hearing. You have the right to refuse to show any documents before speaking with a lawyer.”

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.”

Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith made a statement on his blog regarding the situation.

“It is not our duty or prerogative to enforce immigration laws. Our policy clearly states, ‘Only immigration officers have the authority to detain and arrest suspected undocumented/unauthorized foreign nationals for violations of the immigration laws.’ We are compelled by Missouri Statute 67.307, however, to ‘cooperate with state and federal agencies and officials on matters pertaining to enforcement of state and federal laws governing immigration.’ In the July 22 incident, several KCPD officers responded to ICE’s request for assistance regarding a man they were attempting to arrest who would not exit his vehicle. We would assist any local, state, or federal law enforcement agency who faced the same situation and had jurisdiction in our city.”

Rico said he is also concerned over KCPD’s level of involvement in the incident.

“Kansas City Police say they have a department policy that doesn’t allow for the detainment of people based on immigration violations, but as soon as they get a call, what do they end up doing? They didn’t look at the ICE agents and ask ‘where is the warrant,’ that didn’t come out of their mouths. What came out of their mouths was ‘we are going to break down your window.’ Did they help with the arrest? You can look at the video. They helped put the handcuffs on, they put their knee on top of Flor, they attempted to break the window, and they gave the tool to the ICE agent who ended up breaking the window. If you don’t call that complicit, I don’t know what is complicit. I know that in the criminal context, if I give someone a weapon or tool and they use it for harm, and I knew what they were going to use it for, that doesn’t make me innocent in that situation.”

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 are issued for civil violations of immigration law, not criminal charges. An ICE warrant is not a real warrant. It is not reviewed by a judge or any neutral party to determine if it is based on probable cause.”

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

However, Rico said these ICE warrants cannot be legally executed without being signed by a judge.

“Everybody knows that when you are to be arrested, you need a warrant signed by a judge in order for that warrant to count,” he said. “Any time ICE says they don’t need a warrant or that they have an administrative warrant, the courts have ruled countless times that those are not warrants that subject somebody to arrest. Even when ICE gets told by the federal courts that that piece of paper you have signed by an official from ICE, even though they’ve been told those are not valid, they still do it. Unless it is signed by a judge, it is not enforceable.”

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.

An excerpt from the letter reads:

“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… 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.”

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.

KSMODA has a “resources tab” on their website (ksmoda.org) for anyone interested in getting more information on what to do if you encounter ICE.

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