Questions raised over arrest of Mexican national in Missouri

July 23, 2019 - 6:00 pm
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal immigration officers trying to arrest a Mexican national smashed a car window and dragged him from the vehicle in front of his girlfriend and two young children, prompting condemnation from the woman's Missouri congressman.

A Facebook Live video taken during the arrest of Florencio Millan-Vazquez in Kansas City on Monday shows Immigration and Custom Enforcement and Kansas City police officers trying to persuade him to leave the vehicle. Millan-Vazquez, who is in the U.S. illegally, and his girlfriend, Cheyenne Hoyt, repeatedly ask to see a warrant. After officers warn that they plan to break the window, an immigration officer smashes the glass and others help drag Millan-Vazquez out of the car.

"I'm still in shock," a crying Hoyt told The Associated Press Tuesday. "You think that it's not going to happen to my family, like I never thought this was going to happen. You hear the things (President Donald) Trump says, but (Millan-Vazquez) is not a rapist, he's not a murderer, or a drug dealer. And the way they did it in front of the kids, they didn't care."

Hoyt, who shot and posted the video, said they had been on the way to a doctor's appointment for their disabled 7-month-old daughter when immigration officers blocked them in at their apartment complex and ordered Millan-Vazquez out of the vehicle. The immigration officer asked several times to see proof that Millan-Vazquez is allowed to be in the U.S. and tells the couple that ICE doesn't need a warrant to arrest someone who has entered the country illegally.

Agents must have a warrant when arresting someone inside a home, but the law is less clear for arrests outside a residence, said Jessica Piedra, an immigration attorney with the Kansas City Metro Immigration Alliance.

"It's a little murky since he was in his car," Piedra told The Kansas City Star.

Hoyt acknowledged Millan-Vazquez was in the country illegally but said he is a hard-working chef and family man who never caused any trouble. Immigration officials said Millan-Vazquez re-entered the country twice after being voluntarily deported in 2011 and that he has misdemeanors on his record.

"Millan-Vazquez was uncooperative and refused to exit his vehicle or follow lawfully issued commands issued by ICE and local police," said ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer. "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."

On the video, the couple's 11-year-old son is heard crying as the window is broken and his father is taken away. Millan-Vazquez can later be heard asking to say goodbye to his son. An ICE agent turns down his request.

"Right now we're being extremely nice to you, but what you just put us through, what we had to go through, you're lucky I'm letting you talk to (Hoyt) right now," the agent says. "So no, you can talk to him later, she can bring him up to where you're gonna be and you can see them there."

The arrest occurred on the same day the Trump administration announced that it was extending the authority of immigration officers to quickly deport immigrants who have been in the U.S. illegally for less than two years without putting them before a judge.

It also came the same day that an immigration official in Nashville, Tennessee, gave up trying to arrest a man who refused to leave his vehicle with his 12-year-old son. Neighbors surrounded the van, bringing the man and his son water, food and gas for the vehicle.

U.S. Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver of Missouri called the video of Millan-Vazquez's arrest "heartbreaking and gut-wrenching."

"It should make every American question where we're headed as a nation and what kind of people we want to be," Cleaver said in a statement. "This President has spent the entirety of his term demonizing immigrants and fearmongering his base into relinquishing the very values that have made our nation what it is today, and this incident is a direct result of that rhetoric."

Cleaver, who first posted about the arrest on Twitter on Monday, said he had communicated with the regional office of ICE and will continue to monitor the situation, adding that the only way to ensure such incidents don't happen again is for Congress to pass bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform.

Several immigration advocates said during a news conference Tuesday that Kansas City police damaged the public's trust by helping ICE with the arrest. Police spokesman Jacob Becchina said officers frequently back up federal, state or other officers who conducting enforcement in Kansas City.

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