by Carolyn Bick and Alex Garland
Miguel Martinez decided to work a double shift at Columbia City Ale House Tuesday. He was tired, but looking forward to getting home to his children, who are visiting from Florida, where they live with their mother. Ambling outside into the sunshine for a quick break and to move his car before his next shift began, Martinez met with the last thing he’d expected: two Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents dressed in plainclothes. They knocked on his car window, ordering him to come with them.
Columbia City Ale House employee Brendan Eagan said he got a call from Martinez about an hour later detailing what was happening.
“By the time I got the call from him, he was already in the detention center. Had to be in Tukwila, or something,” Eagan said, referring to the detention center in Tukwila, Washington.
The Emerald later learned from pub kitchen manager Kathy Christopher that Martinez has been transferred to detention in Tacoma, Washington. Christopher is in touch with Martinez’s family and is leading organizing efforts on Martinez’s behalf. She said in a text that Martinez was able to call his brother, but “no one can call him for a few days or possibly a week.”
According to both Eagan and his father, Columbia City Ale House proprietor Jeff Eagan, Martinez has been in the United States legally for at least five years, and has worked at the bar for a year. An immigrant in his mid-fifties, Martinez has a Green Card, and “is legal in every way,” Jeff Eagan said. The pair believe he may have incorrectly filled out some paperwork several years ago, an error that may have sent up a flag in the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) system when he recently purchased a car.
“We are just kind of waiting to find out, talk to him, actually, to find out, because we don’t know,” the elder Eagan said.
But in a statement released Wednesday night, ICE’s Public Affairs Officer Carissa Cutrell, based in Washington, District of Columbia, said Martinez is facing his ninth deportation, and that he is “illegally present in the U.S.” Agents targeted him as part of a broader immigration enforcement action in the Seattle area, the statement read.
According to the statement, in December 2005, an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review issued Martinez a final order of removal. Based on this order, ICE has deported Martinez eight times between 2005 and 2015. In 2006, the U.S. Border Patrol also deported Martinez twice from Arizona to Mexico.
“He has two misdemeanor convictions from August 2011, and he is currently in ICE custody at the Northwest Detention Center, pending his ninth removal to Mexico,” the statement read.
The statement did not detail Martinez’s misdemeanor convictions or explain why the judge issued a final order of removal in 2005. When asked what the convictions were, Cutrell said in an email that undocumented immigrants receive privacy protections, during immigration proceedings, and “we are not permitted to release the specifics of misdemeanor convictions, with limited exceptions.”
When asked about the final order of removal, Cutrell said that immigration judges are part of the Department of Justice (DOJ), and that officials with the DOJ will have that information.
“Please note, an immigration judge issues someone a final order of removal once he/she determines that individual does not have lawful basis to remain in the U.S.,” she said.
As a sanctuary city, Seattle has policies in place to limit its cooperation with the federal government on immigration enforcement.
This isn’t the first time this has happened, though, Jeff Eagan explained. About two or three years ago, another employee, Gaudencio, was detained by ICE, he said. Eagan said Gaudencio, who was also a “totally legal” Green Card holder, was eventually deported back to Oaxaca, Mexico.
“[ICE] can get you for unpaid tickets, you know, you didn’t show up for a court hearing … they come and get you for that — there’s all kinds of things,” Eagan said. “One of our employees goes down and visits him in Mexico every other year … He was a sweetheart. A sweet guy.”
“He had a great smile,” Brendan Eagan added.
Both Eagans are still, as Jeff Eagan put it, “shell shocked.” The feeling is mutual among pub employees, Columbia City Ale House employee Emily Eberhart said.
“[Martinez] takes pride in everything he does. Truly the smallest details are important to him. He is super straight laced [sic]. He talks about his kids A LOT,” Eberhart said in a text message.
Brendan Eagan said pub employees are looking after Martinez’s children, ages 6 and 10.
“We’re going to take care of them, until they get home,” Jeff Eagan said.
A source within the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network said in an email that the family has been connected with the King County Legal Defense Network, and that attorneys from the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project will be contacting the family soon.
The Emerald will update this story as more information becomes available.