One errant shove, and the weight of the federal government is coming down on — wait for it — the federal government.
On Monday, an investigator with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General will be in Kansas City to look into an incident involving a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer who was videotaped pushing a local attorney. The lawyer, Andrea Martinez, tumbled backward, fracturing a bone in her foot.
It's the right move for the agency to send in a professional investigator to examine the allegations in the case and view video footage. A crowd had gathered that day in June to witness ICE deport a pregnant Honduran woman and her 3-year-old son, so multiple witnesses captured the episode on their cellphones.
The investigator will interview Martinez, who was representing the woman and her son along with attorney Megan Galicia.
Presumably, the investigator will spend time with the two federal officers at the office of Enforcement and Removal Operations near Kansas City International Airport where all of the drama occurred. But one challenge for the government may be gaining access to audio of the incident.
Oh yes, there is audio, and it could shed light on the ICE officer's actions and his apparent frustration with video cameras and cellphones recording his every move as this scenario played out around 3:30 a.m. on June 26.
His irritated mood that early morning is understandable, to a point. Shoving the attorney is not.
Martinez had been working with a documentary film crew who had learned of plans to deport Kenia Bautista-Mayorga from a Star story.
Both Martinez and Luis Diaz, the partner of Bautista-Mayorga and a father figure to the toddler, Noah, were wearing microphones to capture the interaction. Diaz, who is also Honduran, is being held at the Platte County jail and is awaiting a bond hearing in his deportation process. He was detained as he tried to hand the little boy over to his mother.
Apparently, the film crew has been reluctant to give up the audio, wanting to safeguard it for their project.
The whole shocking story only reinforces the public outrage over ICE traumatizing families as it ramps up deportations.
Meanwhile, a petition has circulated calling for the two officers who were involved in the incident to be immediately suspended, disciplined appropriately and retrained. The Missouri-Kansas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association addressed their request to Todd Nay, the office in charge of Enforcement and Removal Operations in Kansas City.
“As egregious and disturbing as the actions of these officers were, what the Immigration Bar find even more disturbing are the obvious implications for these officers’ interactions with unrepresented, fearful, and vulnerable immigrants with whom they interact on a daily basis,” read a portion of the letter, signed by chapter chair Kenneth K. Schmitt.
A group of about 60 protesters gathered Friday at the ICE office. A few of them were allowed into the entryway of the building to hand the petition over. They were not allowed to meet with Nay.
Judy Ancel, an activist with the Cross Border Network, said the ICE officials tried to direct the group's questions to a media spokesman.
"We're not media," Ancel said. "We're citizens. But they didn't seem to understand that concept."
Martinez continues to recover. Doctors later diagnosed her with a mild concussion, which caused dizziness. She also required antibiotics when a wound on her foot became infected.
The video of Martinez being shoved to the ground appears to be a damning indictment of the ICE officer's conduct. Perhaps there's more that we don't know. The investigator should answer that question and ensure that those involved are held accountable for their actions.