Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Office of Inspector General Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528-0305
Wednesday, August 31
Re: Civil Rights and Protocol Violations in the Detainment of Garcia Family
Dear Ms. Mack and Mr. Roth:
We are writing to jointly file the present complaint in response to the deceptive methods and tactics utilized in the apprehensions of Ms. Karen Margarito Pineda (“Ms. Margarito”), her children, Santiago and Valentina, and Mr. Reynold Garcia (“Mr. Garcia”) on January 2 and 3, 2016 respectively. We are filing this complaint because we believe that the behavior exercised by agents under the supervision of the Chicago Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Field office may have violated the Garcia family’s civil and due process rights, infringed internal protocols from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and violated federal regulations governing agent behavior.
Regardless of whether Mr. Garcia and Ms. Margarito and their children were identified as individuals with orders of removal, the tactics used against them are at minimum troubling and disproportionate and implicate serious violations of civil rights and excessive policing. We urge that you investigate the following violations to determine whether ICE agents engaged in unlawful or unethical behavior and whether they breached DHS protocols and agreements in their actions to apprehend and subsequently deport the Garcia family:
- Fourth Amendment Civil Rights Violations:
On January 2nd, Ms. Margarito received a call from ICE agents who claimed to be local police who needed to question her about a “suspect” she might know. Seeking to fulfill her civic duty, Ms. Margarito agreed to meet the agents at her home. She granted ICE agents access into her home, but only because she had been deceived into thinking they were police who required assistance in order to apprehend a dangerous individual. Once inside, the agents revealed themselves to be with ICE and proceeded to search through Ms. Margarito’s apartment and interview her underage children, without her consent. (See Exhibit A) Although Ms. Margarito asked to see a judicial warrant, she was never shown one. While it is true that federal enforcement agents are allowed to enter an individual’s private home without a judicial warrant, they must first obtain consent.
As premised by Aguilar vs. ICE, access obtained through deception or coercion–in this case through the impersonation of police and other lies–is not valid consent. By impersonating police and using lies to gain access into Ms. Margarito’s home, ICE agents likely did not obtain valid consent to enter her home, thereby potentially violating Ms. Margarito’s Fourth Amendment right to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…”
- Violation of DHS Protocols Regarding Ruses, Impersonations, and Operations at or Near Sensitive Locations and other Fourth Amendment Violations
The enforcement tactics exercised by ICE agents are governed by internal agency guidance, including several manuals and handbooks.
On Sunday morning, January 3rd, as part of what immigrant rights advocates have characterized as a ‘ruse’, Chicago ICE agents seized the cell phone belonging to Noel Coria, Mr. Garcia’s housemate, without his consent. Based on information and belief, ICE did not obtain a warrant to seize this cell phone. This cell phone was used to send Mr. Garcia text messages, pretending to be Mr. Garcia’s friend, Mr. Coria. They stated that a family friend had suffered an automobile accident. Mr. Garcia also was called on his cell phone. When Mr. Garcia returned the call, the individual on the other end identified himself as local police from the Palatine Police Department, confirmed the supposed accident, and requested Mr. Garcia’s urgent support. When Mr. Garcia shared that he was praying at Christian Pentecostal Center during Sunday morning worship, two unmarked automobiles were sent to the Church. After their arrival to the Church, ICE agents insisted they were local police with Mr. Garcia and at least two other congregants who were present that morning and who also interacted with the Chicago ICE agents. Concerned for his friend, Mr. Garcia Chavez entered one of the automobiles based on the ICE agents’ representations that they were the Palatine police and their statement regarding the purported accident.
We have concerns that ICE’s conduct here implicate violations of the Fourth Amendment and its own policies and procedures.
With respect to impersonation, Part 3 of the ERO Fugitive Operations Team Handbook (2010) states that a “ruse involving the impersonation of federal, state, local or private-sector employee is contingent on permission from the proposed cover employer. The point of contact must be an executive with the authority to grant permission for the impersonation.”
Congressional inquiries with the Deputy Chief of the Palatine Police Department and the Chief of Police of the Village of Schaumburg (where Christian Pentecostal Center is located) have indicated that ICE agents did not notify or provide prior communication to either department. If agents did not have permission to impersonate police but they did so anyway, it appears that ICE was in violation of internal agency protocol in the enforcement action carried out against Mr. Garcia at Christian Pentecostal Church. Furthermore, this operation has raised serious community concerns on the extent of local police involvement in this ICE operation. A thorough investigation by the CRCL and OIG is critical so that the community may receive clarity on the extent of local police involvement or lack thereof in this ICE operation and so it can begin to repair damage done to local community-police relations.
As previously noted, the operation was carried out on a Sunday morning at a place of worship. With respect to enforcement operations at sensitive locations such as a church, the ICE Sensitive Location Memorandum by John Morton (2011) which explicitly states that:
“This policy is designed to ensure that these enforcement actions do not occur at nor are focused on sensitive locations such as schools and churches unless (a) exigent circumstances exist, (b) other law enforcement actions have led officers to a sensitive location…or (c) prior approval is obtained.
The enforcement actions covered by this policy are (1) arrests; (2) interviews; (3) searches; and (4) for purposes of immigration enforcement only, surveillance.
Any planned enforcement action at or focused on a sensitive location…must have prior approval…”
Although there are “exigent” circumstances when ICE agents may carry out enforcement actions at sensitive locations, including when there is a “national security or terrorism matter,” we do not find any evidence that these were applicable in the case of Mr. Garcia.
If prior approval was granted for the carrying out of this enforcement action, which immigrant rights advocates have reported that Chicago ICE Field Office Director Wong has verbally indicated that he did grant (Exhibit F), the Sensitive Locations memo still requires that “extra care” be taken “when assessing whether a planned enforcement action could reasonably be viewed as causing significant disruption to the operations of the sensitive locations.” The decision to target an individual who posed no serious threat at his place of worship on a Sunday morning, when churches are known to be most full, is deeply concerning. If prior approval was not granted and the decision to execute this operation was made by individual ICE agents, there must be disciplinary action. In addition to impeding community members right of worship, ICE’s operation has sowed fear and distrust of law enforcement. According to the Pastor of Christian Pentecostal Center, the operation has had profound traumatic consequences on that local community and resulted in the departure of individuals who even fear church collusion with ICE and continued targeting.
- Violation of Federal Regulations
As previously detailed, ICE agents failed to properly identify themselves with both Mr. Garcia and Ms. Margarito. Although the agents revealed they were with ICE after they had entered Ms. Margarito’s home, as explained above, their impersonation of police may have compromised Ms. Margarito’s Fourth Amendment rights. In Mr. Garcia’s case, agents did not identify themselves as ICE until after Mr. Garcia had already boarded their automobile and been driven, without explanation and under false pretenses, several miles away from Christian Pentecostal Church.
We are concerned that the behavior of ICE agents may have been in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations, which regulates the conduct of immigration officer when carrying arrests out. Subsections, 8 CFR § 287.8 (c) (2) (iii) states that:
(iii) “At the time of the arrest, the designated immigration officer shall, as soon as it is practical and safe to do so so:
- Identify himself or herself as an immigration officer who is authorized to execute an arrest; and
- State that the person is under arrest and the reason for the arrest”
ICE agents may have also engaged in unlawful conduct against Mr. Noel Coria, a family friend who lived in the same residence as the Garcia family and with whom ICE agents interacted prior to arriving at Christian Pentecostal Church. Even though Mr. Coria was not the target of their operation and no warrant or reasons for arrest was provided to him either, Mr. Coria has stated he was handcuffed, questioned, and told that he had to cooperate because the ICE agents “had to take someone.” The deceptive text messages which ICE agents used to lure Mr. Garcia out of Christian Pentecostal Center were sent from Mr. Coria’s personal cell phone without his permission. (Exhibit G)
Aside from Fourth Amendment implications, this behavior would seem to be in direct violation of Section vii of the aforementioned Code of Federal Regulations which states that the “use of threats, coercion, or physical abuse by the designated immigration officer to induce a suspect to waive his or her rights or to make a statement is prohibited.”
It is our concern that Chicago ICE agents demonstrated a consistent disregard for the civil rights, internal policies governing agent behavior, and federal regulations in order to detain and deport the Garcia Chavez family. Accordingly, we request that the U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Inspector General (OIG) conduct the following next steps immediately:
- Conduct a comprehensive review of ICE conduct in the course of arresting the Garcia Chavez family described above, including investigating the violations mentioned above;
- Make disciplinary action recommendations for any ICE agents, including supervisors and superiors, found to have engaged in abuse or misconduct as a result of this investigation;
- Conduct a broader investigation into the Chicago ICE Field Office’s systemic use or condonment of such tactics, under the supervision of Director Ricardo Wong, as well as general compliance with the aforementioned ERO policies and regulatory guidance.
- Grant parole for Reynold Garcia, Karen Margarito Pineda, and their children as key witness in this civil rights investigation;
- Provide a briefing of the findings and recommendations of your investigation to the Chicago Religious Leadership Network (CRLN), Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), and Mijente
- Consider U-Visa Certification for Reynold Garcia and Karen Margarito Pineda based on the detection of qualified criminal activity in the course of investigation.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent and troubling matter. We look forward to your prompt response.
Chicago Religious Leadership Network (CRLN)
Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD)
Tania Unzueta, Mijente
 Escobar v. Gaines, Case No. 11-cv-00994 *17 (M.D. Tenn, 8 May 2014) (Doc. 441-2) (ERO Fugitive Operations Handbook).