A Black man was jogging in Boston when he said he was racially profiled and stopped by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After viewing video footage of the incident the man recorded, the city’s mayor and lawmakers are calling for accountability.
29-year-old Bena Apreala told NBC Boston that the ICE agents didn’t identify themselves before they stopped and questioned him about who he was and what he was doing.
“The police officer started walking towards me, and he said, ‘Hey, stop,’ and without identifying himself, he started asking me for identification, asking me where I was from, asking me who I was, what my business was around the area,” Apreala said. “They never introduced themselves, they never identified themselves, they never said I was being detained because of an immigration violation.”
From NBC Boston:
The 29-year-old real estate agent and father says the frightening experience left him nervous for what could come next.
“I said, ‘What am I being detained for?’” Apreala recalled. “He said, ‘Because you fit the description of someone we’re investigating.”
“As I was watching this thing, I wasn’t sure until I got to call him if he had been arrested,” said his mother, Patricia Apreala, who explained that she feared for her son after seeing the video. “I have too many videos running in my head about young Black males with law enforcement, and it was not a pretty sight, I can tell you.”
A spokesperson for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division told NBC News that Apreala was stopped because he apparently looks like someone the agency is after.
“ICE officers were conducting surveillance as part of a targeted enforcement action Wednesday in West Roxbury, Mass., looking for a previously deported Haitian national with multiple criminal convictions and pending cocaine and fentanyl trafficking charges that may have been residing in the area,” the spokesperson said. The agency also denied that the officers didn’t announce themselves.
After the agents questioned Apreala they determined that he wasn’t the person they were looking for and he was allowed to leave, NBC reports. In the video, one officer can be heard asking Apreala, “Do you have any tattoos on your left or right arm?”
“Am I free to go? Do I have to show you? If I’m free to go, then I’m not showing you anything,” Apreala responds. “Thank you. Have a great day, guys.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is having none of it. During a Wednesday press conference, Walsh “admonished ICE’s handling of the situation and said he was asking the city’s police department to find out more information about the incident,” NBC reports.
Walsh also tweeted that he had spoken to Apreala and that “racial profiling and stops like these are wrong, unjustified, and will not be tolerated.”
West Roxbury City Council member Matt O’ Malley expressed similar sentiments calling the stop “unlawful” and saying that racial profiling “should not happen here or anywhere else.”
And, of course, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass) came through with a word.
“For too long, ICE and CBP have acted with impunity—emboldened by a xenophobic Administration and the Occupant of this White House,” Pressley tweeted Wednesday. “We will not stand by and watch them intimidate, harass and racially profile our Black and Brown communities in Boston or anywhere in the country.”
She also tweeted that she’s “calling for an immediate investigation” into the incident adding that “We must understand what they were doing and rationale behind their employment.”
It’s unclear whether or not an investigation into the stop is actually underway.