2017 People’s Tribunal, organized by Northwest Detention Center Resistance. Photo by Sara Bernard.

2017 People’s Tribunal, organized by Northwest Detention Center Resistance. Photo by Sara Bernard.

Immigrant Rights Community Responds to Allegations Against Seattle ICE Attorney

Activists say that Monday’s charges further vindicate their fight against the organization’s tactics.

“I never trusted ICE,” immigrant rights advocate Maru Mora-Villalpando said with a laugh. In late December, she received a notice to appear in immigration court—the beginning of deportation proceedings. As an outspoken undocumented immigrant who organizes detainees at Tacoma’s Northwest Detention Center, she believes the court order was an act of retaliation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

So when Seattle ICE lawyer Raphael A. Sanchez was charged with wire fraud and identity theft on Monday, she saw it as vindication of the need for her work.

Seattle’s chief ICE attorney allegedly stole the identities of seven people in immigration proceedings between October 2013 to October 2017, according to charging documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. In Mora-Villalpando’s eyes, the allegations underscore the agency’s lack of oversight, which enables “egregious behavior.”

“It shows that even those in high positions of power in ICE feel that they can get away with this type of behavior,” Mora-Villalpando told Seattle Weekly on Wednesday. “They have access to a lot of information and they feel that they’re not accountable to anyone.”

Federal prosecutors with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section allege that Sanchez intended to defraud financial institutions including Bank of America Corporation, Citibank, JP Morgan, and others using the identities of immigrants. The court papers revealed that Sanchez forwarded one individual’s energy bill and images of identity documents to his personal email in April 2016.

Monday’s allegations mark the second instance that a high-ranking Seattle ICE official has been accused of misconduct within the past few years. In 2016, Jonathan M. Love, a former assistant chief counsel for ICE in Seattle, was sentenced to 30 days in prison for forging a document to ensure the deportation of an immigrant attempting to stay in the country with his wife, a U.S. citizen.

Mora-Villalpando and other local immigrant rights advocates say that the filing shows that the judicial system is one of the only sources of protection during a time when ICE officials are emboldened to arrest and deport many undocumented immigrants. “The prosecution of ICE Chief Counsel Raphael Sanchez underscores the perception that ICE is a rogue agency,” OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz said in a statement. “When law enforcement officials are the ones being investigated for crimes they have committed, and when long-time community members are being torn from their families due to unauthorized status alone, one must ask whether any increased investment in immigration enforcement makes sense for the nation, or for ICE, an agency that still needs to get its own affairs in order.”

The Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network—which provides legal consultation to detainees and their families via a hotline—echoed the sentiment that the lawsuit is a step in the right direction. “We know that Congress is in a gridlock where they’re not willing to act on the best behalf of our immigrant communities,” said WISN Coordinator Monserrat Padilla. On the other hand, she believes that the lawsuit filed against Sanchez reinforces the immigrant community’s trust in the judicial system. The case was filed a day before a second federal judge blocked the Trump administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Mora-Villalpando sees Sanchez’s resignation from ICE on Monday as a silver lining, because it safeguards her and others in immigration proceedings from also having their identities stolen. “This is a pattern of behavior within an agency that was created to harm, not to do any good,” Mora-Villalpando said, referencing the alleged assaults by guards of three detainees who staged hunger strikes at the Northwest Detention Center last week.

Sanchez is scheduled to appear in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington Thursday, according to the court calendar.

mhellmann@seattleweekly.com


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

The Monroe Correctional Complex on April 9, 2020. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Formerly incarcerated people regain right to vote in Washington

Rights restored immediately upon release.

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

Spring Chinook Salmon. Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Salmon update: King County wants cleaner water, more habitat

Salmon and orcas are in the spotlight once again as King County… Continue reading

Guns seized during April 7 arrests (photo credit: Dept. of Justice)
More than 20 arrested across the Puget Sound in drug distribution conspiracy

DOJ says law enforcement agencies seized over 70 guns and hundreds of thousands in cash.

T
Sheriff’s office wants help identifying Green River killer victim

Staff reports In 2003, Gary Ridgway, Washington’s notorious Green River killer, pleaded… Continue reading

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. File photo
King County needs more lawyers to attack backlog of cases

6,107 open cases is double the normal amount for King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Public Health – Seattle & King County staff administering COVID-19 vaccine to a local emergency responder. COURTESY PHOTO, Public Health-Seattle & King County
Starting April 15, everyone 16 and older is eligible for a vaccine

Gov. Inslee said an expected increase in vaccine supply enables the state to open eligibility.

A CVS pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Phase Finder for vaccine eligibility to be eliminated March 31

Eligibility verification via Phase Finder no longer required for appointments, vaccinations beginning this week.

Courtesy photo
Issaquah School District settles negligence lawsuit for $4.25 million

The lawsuit alleged the district covered for a now-convicted child molester while he was a teacher.

Sound Publishing file photo
More people can get the COVID vaccine on March 31, but supply is still limited

The number of people eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine is set… Continue reading

Kindergarten and first grade students line up outside of Panther Lake Elementary in Federal Way on March 15. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror
Inslee: K-12 schools can reduce COVID social distancing

The governor reduced social distancing requirements for K-12 classrooms from 6 feet to 3 feet.

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. (Wikimedia Commons)
Insurers told to stop using credit scores to set rates

A ban of that practice will be in place until the pandemic is over, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says.