KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The partner of a man detained by immigration officials on Monday says agents didn’t need to resort to breaking their car window.
Now, the father of her two children is awaiting deportation, and she wants people to know this could have been more peaceful.
On Monday morning, Cheyenne Hoyt said she and 32-year-old Florencio Millan-Vasquez were with their two young children in the car. She said they were ready to take their 7-month-old daughter to her doctor’s appointment.
That’s when they were approached by two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. Millan-Vazquez re-entered the U.S. illegally after being deported in 2011.
Hoyt said the ICE agents told them they had a warrant but refused to show her any paperwork.
She started recording the incident on Facebook Live in a video that’s now going viral.
You can see Millan-Vasquez sitting in the drivers seat with his window slightly cracked and two ICE agents standing outside the car door talking to them through the gap.
Continuously she and Millan-Vasquez ask the agents to show them a warrant.
The agents don’t say they have a warrant in the video and don’t acknowledge the couple’s plea to show it to them. However, they also do not deny them either.
“He said that he had a warrant for my boyfriend’s arrest,” Hoyt said. “We asked to see the warrant. He refused us the warrant. I asked for the name on the warrant. He still refused.”
“He told my boyfriend to get out of the car or this could go bad,” she continued. “Once again, I asked for the warrant. He refused me again. I asked the name on the warrant, and he refused. This went on for about five minutes before he said he was going to call the police.”
Michael Sharma-Crawford, an immigration attorney, said the need for warrants during ICE detainment can be confusing. There are two directions a warrant can go when dealing with federal immigration — criminal and civil.
“What you’re looking at is a civil arrest on a document, but remember, they’re screaming for a warrant because they’re law enforcement, the police,” he said. “This law enforcement presence is outside this vehicle.”
“You would think, he would think, we would all go, ‘Well, you’re going to say you’re going to arrest me,'” Sharma-Crawford continued. “I want to see the warrant. We would all think, signed by a judge, that would allow you to arrest me.”
Sharma-Crawford said by re-entering the United States after being previously deported, the government already has a deportation order on file and the right to remove an illegal immigrant from the country.
“They have the right to enforce an arrest,” Sharma-Crawford said. “The regulations allow them to use non-lethal force that’s reasonable.”
He said the question of what is reasonable is up to interpretation by law enforcement.
In the video, ICE agents tell the couple if Millan-Vasquez doesn’t come out of the car, they’re going to call KCPD for assistance. The ICE agent can be heard saying, “This isn’t going to be good.”
A KCPD officer can be heard on the video saying, “I know you have a six-month-old in there. That’s why I don’t want to break this window, but if you don’t get out, I’m going to break this window.”
“They said well, ‘This is what you’re making us do,'” Hoyt said. “Then my boyfriend stated, ‘You’re really going to do this in front of the kids?’ An officer said, ‘This is your choice. This is what you’re making us do.'”
“No. All we asked was for a warrant, and he would have left,” Hoyt continued. “But since you refused to give us that warrant, it’s our right to stay in our car. That’s our property.”
The officer attempted to break the window multiple times, but was unable to smash the glass.
Eventually, in the video, you see an ICE officer break the glass and pull Millan-Vasquez out of the car and bring him to the ground. KCPD officers are seen assisting the federal agents.
“I told my boyfriend, I put my hand on his shoulder and I told him not to refuse or to resist because I didn’t want them to shoot him in front of my kids. At that point that’s what I felt, that they were going to try and hurt him even more,” Hoyt said. “That’s what you see on the videos, and I don’t know how far they were willing to escalate this.”
ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer released a statement regarding the incident, saying Millan-Vasquez was uncooperative.
“Millan-Vazquez was uncooperative and refused to exit his vehicle or follow lawfully issued commands issued by ICE and local police,” Neudauer said. “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.”
Sgt. Jake Becchina with the Kansas City Police Department responded saying, “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.”
Community groups came together Tuesday in disagreement with KCPD’s decision to assist ICE in Millan-Vasquez’s detainment.
Naomi Tolentino, the board president of Advocates for Immigrants Rights & Reconciliation (AIRR), said KCPD has broken the community’s trust by participating in Millan-Vasquez’s detainment.
“This video shows that working in concert with ICE to facilitate a violent arrest,” Tolentino said. “The non-cooperation stance of the Kansas City Police Department means trust, means that we as a community can trust the police, and that trust is broken.”
The community groups called for KCPD to publicly denounce ICE, no longer work with them and train officers to understand immigration law and enforcement.
“Based the actions of KCPD yesterday, it’s clear that there is lack of understanding on what is constitutional regarding warrants,” said Alex Perez with the Kansas Missouri Dream Alliance. “What they did was not constitutional. KCPD was complicit in ICE’s warrant-less arrest, thinking that a deportation order can take the place of an actual arrest warrant signed by a judge.”
“Our demand for the sake of public safety and trust that the KCPD reiterate their supposed commitment to not collaborate, assist or offer support with ICE on arrests,” Rev. Rick Behrens with More2 said.
Sharma-Crawford said in the civil context, ICE had the right to detain Millan-Vasquez, but said perhaps there was another way to go about it.
“Is that reasonable in that context? Or was it more reasonable to pull out the order of removal and say, ‘You know you got ordered removed,” Sharma-Crawford said. “This is the order of removal. This is the reinstatement paperwork. This is what lets me arrest you.”
Outgoing KC Mayor Sly James posted about the matter on Facebook saying, “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.”
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver said on Twitter that he’s concerned about the trauma of the children and the use of force.
Beyond the discussion of what is legal, ethical, kind or right, Hoyt said she’s left without her partner, and her children are without their father.
“What you just put us through, what we had to go through, you’re lucky I’m letting you talk to her right now,” the ICE agent is heard saying to Millan-Vasquez in the video.
“I just thought, ‘What did you put us through? What did you put my kids through?'” Hoyt said. “At that point, you didn’t care what my kids thought. You heard my son cry, ‘Don’t take my dad. Don’t take him.’ But you didn’t care about that.”
“You didn’t care if you hurt my daughter. You didn’t care if my son was hurt. You didn’t care at all,” she said. “But we put you through a problem. We put you through pain and suffering. No. All we asked was for a paper saying you had the right to take him, and he would have left willingly.”