Immigration

"Are you illegal?" A policeman's question to a Honduran who had just been run over by a car

A 31-year-old undocumented Honduran bicyclist, Marcos Antonio Huete, was hit by a car in Key West, Florida, on his way to work. The policeman's camera shows him inquiring about the victim's immigration status before offering medical assistance. He was later detained by the Border Patrol.
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Everything was recorded on the body cameras of the police who responded to the accident.

Marcos Antonio Huete, a 31-year-old Honduran immigrant, was lying on a sidewalk next to his bicycle after being hit April 27 by a GMC Sierra pickup truck on his way to work in Key West in the Florida Keys.

"You illegal? Are you a legal citizen or no? Speak English? You got ID? Passport, visa, or what?" a Monroe County sheriff asked Huete insistently, according to the video.

Still on the ground, Huete answers with monosyllables before using a cell phone to call his sister, who arrived at the scene soon after.

Hours after the accident Huete left the hospital on crutches and was sent to the Krome Detention Center near Miami, where he has spent almost a month in detention pending possible deportation.

According to his sister, Olga Huete, after he was discharged from the hospital a police officer told them to return to the scene of the accident. "He did not tell us why, but we went back because my brother had not done anything. We had no reason to flee."

Fined and detained by the Border Patrol

Once there, he says he was fined $75 by a Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHP) officer for causing the accident. The incident report accuses Huete of obstructing/hindering traffic and listed his injury severity as "possible."

Huete allegedly "darted out in front" of the pickup as it turned right across a marked crosswalk striking the rear tire of Huete's bicycle. The officer decided that the driver, a 45-year-old Key West woman, was not at fault.

Then Border Patrol agents showed up and asked to see Huete's papers, suspecting him of being undocumented.

Olga Huete says that while they don't have papers, she is outraged by what she called the lack of justice in blaming her brother after he was the victim. She said the woman driving the pickup was allowed to drive away "as if it was nothing."

"The fact that we do not have papers does not mean that we do not have rights," she said.

In a statement to Univision, the Border Patrol said that FHP communicated with its agents "to assist in the identification of the subject (Huete)." However, he says that such communication between the agencies is "rare."

For his part, the Monroe Sheriff's Office told News 23 that it has "no official policy" to notify people who believe they may be illegally in the country.

Lack of humanity?

Although the family has contacted a lawyer to fight for Huete's stay in the country, the Honduran who worked in construction and for local restaurants to support his mother and two daughters in Honduras, is facing deportation.

According to the Border Patrol, Huete has a deportation order dating back to 2010 and is being held at Krome pending arrangements being made for his removal.

In addition, he faces criminal charges for having re-entered the United States after being expelled.

The case has garnered attention because of the treatment Huete received from the county sheriff's agent. The video appears to show that an ambulance is only called after a second officer asks him in Spanish if he needs medical care.

"Asking for immigration status to a person after being hit by a car offends human rights sensitivity and is very counterproductive for effective law enforcement," said Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In Simon's view, the first agent had an obligation to make sure Huete received proper medical care. Incidents like this undermine public confidence in the police, he added.

"The moment these agents become the mass deportation force of President [Donald] Trump will be the end of any cooperation between immigrant communities in the United States and the local police," said Simon.

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