Early one winter morning last year, Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agents were scouting the last-known address of a
fugitive they had labeled Target #147 when they happened upon
Isabel Karina Ruiz-Roque.
A turkey farmworker for over a decade, Ruiz-Roque had kept her
head down and her record clean, never once
encountering los ICEs, as she called them. Then
two federal agents rapped on her car window and flashed a photo of
the immigration fugitive they believed to be her York County
neighbor. Ruiz-Roque, 34, said she did not know the woman, and they
told her not to worry, that she was not their target.
Two weeks later, during an enforcement operation that prized big
arrest numbers, the agents returned and demanded she let them into
her Hanover apartment house to search for #147. When she refused,
they arrested her instead, and drove her, handcuffed, to a Rite Aid
parking lot to scan her fingerprints, she said.
There, after finding the record of an old apprehension at the
border, they made a stunning proposition, according to a sworn
statement she filed in immigration court: They would ignore their
discovery and let her go if she paid them off.
They suggested $2,000 to $3,000, according to her statement. She
told them she did not have that kind of money. And so they
transported her to the York County Prison, the primary detention
center for immigrants in Pennsylvania, to face deportation.
Unlike most immigration detainees, Ruiz-Roque was able, through
her sister, to secure a lawyer to fight her removal. He would try
to air her bribery allegation in court. But the secretive
immigration justice system is not set up for public
An investigation by ProPublica and the Philadelphia Inquirer
found numerous cases in which
ICE agents and
police officers allegedly engaged in racial profiling,
conducted warrantless searches, detained people without probable
cause, fabricated evidence, and, in this one extreme instance,
solicited a bribe.
But in none of these cases have agents or officers been put on
the stand to respond to the allegations.
The conduct of arresting officers is rarely scrutinized in the
overwhelmed immigration courts, which focus squarely on whether
arrested individuals should be removed from the United States.
While deportation proceedings are civil, they afford immigrants
fewer rights than criminal defendants to challenge their