These types of interactions “raise serious questions about the violation of individual constitutional rights and law enforcement’s targeting and harassing individuals based on race,” the letter said. “More broadly, these incidents heighten suspicion of and erode faith in law enforcement throughout the community.”
The letter — signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey and Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Stephen Lynch — demands ICE respond by next Thursday.
The Boston ICE office acknowledged Wednesday that the agents who stopped and questioned Apreala had been searching for a different man who faces deportation to Haiti. On Thursday, an agency spokesman said he couldn’t comment on the letter.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is representing Apreala.
“This incident is disturbing, and we are grateful that Massachusetts elected officials are demanding answers about it,” said Rahsaan Hall, the ACLU’s racial justice program director.
Video of Apreala’s encounter with ICE agents on the VFW Parkway was posted Tuesday to Facebook by a woman who identified herself as the mother of Apreala’s child. She wrote that he was “stopped for ‘running while black’ in a predominantly white neighborhood.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Wednesday expressed frustration because ICE initially declined to say whether the agents worked for the agency.
“I’m demanding that ICE stop this cruel practice of inciting fear in the lives of our residents, particularly our Black and Brown residents, and undocumented immigrants,” he wrote on Twitter.
Apreala and ICE offered differing accounts of whether the agents identified themselves.
In radio and television interviews Apreala said the agents didn’t identify themselves until he saw one of the men had an “ICE” badge and he asked whether they worked for the agency. ICE said the officers identified themselves after they approached Apreala.
The lawmakers’ letter asks ICE to clarify details of the interaction, as well as whether the stop complied with ICE policies, and whether the officers work for Enforcement and Removal Operations or Homeland Security Investigations.
The letter also asks why one of the agents requested Apreala display his arms to check for tattoos. Apreala declined, noting that the agents had already told him he was free to leave.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration began placing agents in cities like Boston where the municipal government doesn’t cooperate with federal authorities on immigration actions. Officers from Customs and Border Protection are also participating in the effort.
ICE’s statement didn’t say whether its presence in West Roxbury was part of that operation.
The agency said its intended target was Friendy Grandoit, a convicted felon who was deported in July 2008, but later returned to the United States illegally.