Officer's First Question to Immigrant in Accident: 'You Illegal?'

In Trump's America, only citizens get help from the police.

Photo Credit: palidachan /

Instead of offering to help a man who had been knocked off his bicycle by a pickup truck, a Florida police officer quizzed him on his immigration status.

Univision first reported the story after obtaining the officer’s body camera footage. Marcos Antonio Huete, an immigrant from Honduras living in Key West, was thrown from his bike to the sidewalk when he collided with a truck. Instead of inquiring about his injuries, the first cop to arrive at the accident scene began asking Huete about his citizenship information.

“You illegal? Are you a legal citizen or no? Speak English? You got ID? Passport, visa or what?” the officer asks as he approaches Huete.  

The accident occurred on April 27, but Univision was only able to obtain the footage (below) in recent days.

Huete called his sister, Olga, who came to the scene and took him to the hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries. Olga told Univision reporters that her brother was instructed by officers to return to the site of the accident, where he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. He is now being held at a Miami ICE facility while he awaits deportation hearings.

"Usually Monroe [County] cops did not hand over undocumented immigrants to immigration authorities, because the Cayos area was considered a sanctuary for immigrants," Willy Allen, an attorney in the area, told Telemundo. "It was the Florida Highway Patrol that [called ICE], but everything is changing with the current administration's policy on sanctuary cities."

Olga told the outlet that her brother is the sole provider for his mother, niece and two daughters who are still in Honduras. According to Univision, ICE has stated that “Huete had entered the country illegally and had been deported in the past, so his chances of being released are minimal.”

A recent ICE press release reports that arrests of undocumented immigrants have skyrocketed 37 percent during Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, compared with the same period during the early days of Obama’s term. The vast majority of those arrests have been for non-violent crimes and other minor infractions. The number of immigrants without criminal records who are being taken into custody has shot up an astounding 150 percent.

Huete’s story adds to the growing list of incidents that have discouraged immigrants from engaging with police for fear of being deported. A ThinkProgress survey of 2,000 Latinos in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Phoenix released earlier this month found 44 percent reported they were “unlikely to contact police if they are targets of a crime.” Forty-five percent stated they were “unlikely to report crime” they had witnessed. 

“That number shoots up to about 70 percent of undocumented Latino immigrants who indicated that they would neither file a police report for being a victim nor for being a witness. Instead because ‘they fear that police officers will use this interaction as an opportunity to inquire into their immigration status or that of people they know,’” the study found.

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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