A Kansas City immigration lawyer who was injured while trying to assist her 3-year-old client is suing the two immigration agents who allegedly shoved her to the ground and caused her injuries.
Andrea Martinez says she suffered a fractured right foot, bleeding and a concussion after she was forcibly separated from her client, whom she was reuniting with his pregnant mother in June 2018 at a local ICE facility. Both mother and child were being deported to Honduras.
The lawsuit, which names ICE agents Everett Chase and Ronnet Sasse as well as the U.S. government as defendants, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for assault, battery, false arrest, false imprisonment and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
“The officers used excessive force in pushing Martinez to the ground causing serious injury and emotional trauma,” the lawsuit alleges. “They also refused medical treatment, illegally detained Martinez inside the facility against her will, and illegally seized and searched her cellular phone.”
ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said that ICE, as a matter of policy, does not comment on pending litigation. But he said the lack of comment “should not be construed as agreement with or stipulation to any of the allegations.”
“As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s homeland security mission, our trained law enforcement professionals adhere to the Department’s mission and values, and uphold our laws while continuing to provide the nation with safety and security,” Neudauer said via email.
A portion of the incident, which occurred on June 26, 2018, was recorded as part of a Netflix documentary, “Living Undocumented,” released last week.
Martinez represented Kenia Bautista-Mayorga and her son, identified in the lawsuit as N.B.M. The two sought asylum in the United States in 2016 after fleeing alleged abuse at the hands of Bautista-Mayorga’s then partner, a Honduran police officer and N.B.M.’s father. Bautista-Mayorga and her son settled in Texas.
In May, Bautista-Mayorga, then about five months pregnant, was detained by ICE in Platte County after a traffic stop. She was separated from her son, who then went to live in Texas with Bautista-Mayorga’s current partner, with whom she was expecting the child.
She and N.B.M. were eventually ordered deported. While awaiting the outcome of their appeal, Martinez asked her partner to bring N.B.M. to Kansas City in the event they lost the appeal.
According to the lawsuit, Martinez originally made plans with ICE for her clients to say goodbye to Bautista-Mayorga’s partner in the ICE parking lot. But Chase and Sasse, the ICE officers, instead told her to have them say their goodbyes in the ICE facility because it was raining outside.
When Martinez and an associate went back to Martinez’s car, where Bautista-Mayorga’s partner was holding N.B.M., they were followed by Chase, according to the lawsuit. Chase then allegedly interrupted their conversation, grabbed the partner’s arm and forcibly walked him to the building’s entrance.
“Chase – who was armed – was visibly angry,” the suit says.
After the partner and N.B.M. were brought inside the building, “Chase then physically and purposefully backed into Martinez and her associate attorney as they attempted to accompany their client into the facility. Sasse and Chase then pushed Martinez to the ground and locked the doors to the facility, preventing Martinez from accompanying her three-year-old client.”
Martinez says the fall fractured her right foot, tore her pants and caused lacerations, bleeding and a concussion.
Seconds later, Chase unlocked the door and told Martinez to enter the building but refused to let her associate do so, according to the lawsuit.
Upon entering, Martinez found Bautista-Mayorga, her partner and N.B.M. “hugging and crying” in a conference room. Chase then told Sasse to take Bautista-Mayorga and N.B.M. to the airport for deportation. But he refused to allow them to retrieve their luggage, the suit alleges, and they “were deported without any belongings except for the clothes they were wearing.”
The suit goes on to recount that Martinez, who believed she was being detained, tried to call the police but Chase took her phone away and unsuccessfully tried to unlock it. When Martinez sought first-aid for her injuries, Chase told her they weren’t serious enough to merit first-aid.
Police and an ambulance eventually arrived but were initially denied entry, according to the lawsuit. After they were allowed to come in, they placed Martinez on a stretcher and transported her to Saint Luke’s Northland Hospital.
Martinez was later diagnosed with a concussion and given a boot and crutches for her foot injury.
“Martinez also sought and continues to receive counseling for the psychological and emotional trauma she suffered at the hands of Chase and Sasse,” the lawsuit alleges.
Martinez filed a police report two days after the incident and the police kept her torn pants and shoes as evidence, the lawsuit says.
Martinez, who has her own law firm and has been practicing immigration law since 2007, said that before filing the lawsuit, her lawyers reached out to the Department of Homeland Security, the agency of which ICE is a part, but received no response.
Several dozen protesters and members of the media were on hand the day of the incident and witnessed what happened, which Martinez described as “shocking.”
“Not that I love ICE or anything,” she says, “but there is a way to do your job where you treat people humanely in law enforcement. And this was just outside the scope of any rational behavior that I could explain.”
Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, which is representing Martinez, said that the two agents “acted outside the bounds of what any reasonable officer would think appropriate.”
“Assaulting a lawyer and deporting her toddler client without any of his clothes and belongings is mean,” Rothert said in a statement. “Americans should not tolerate this behavior being done in our name.”
This story was updated to include comments from Andrea Martinez.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies