Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is joining a growing chorus of voices seeking answers following an incident on Tuesday where a jogger recorded video of an encounter with federal agents in Boston.
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Pressley, a Democrat, sent a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thursday expressing concern over the incident, in which Bena Apreala, who is Black, said he was stopped by ICE agents while jogging on the VFW Parkway in West Roxbury.
"This incident has understandably left many in our community fearful of a potential uptick in ICE presence and a possible increase in ICE agents’ enforcement activities in unmarked vehicles," Pressley wrote in her letter. "Mr. Apreala's encounter also raises serious questions about whether ICE officers are using enforcement investigations to engage in racial profiling and stop and frisk policing in our communities."
The Congresswoman asked ICE to provide additional information about the incident and requested data from the agency on its overall enforcement activities in the Boston area. She gave the agency a week to respond to her letter.
"The criminalization and targeting of Black and Brown communities by this Administration must end," she said in her letter. "The public deserves transparency about the presence of ICE officers in our communities and accountability for any federal officers that may be infringing upon an individual’s civil rights."
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh called the incident "unacceptable" on Wednesday, and said he has asked the Boston Police Department to reach out to federal authorities to find out more about it.
Apreala, a 29-year-old real estate agent and father, said the ICE agents never identified themselves and he didn't realize who they were until he looked at their badges. He was not taken into custody.
"It was disturbing video to watch," Walsh said. "It's unacceptable in so many ways. It violates somebody's rights just based on the color of their skin."
"Incidents like this have no place in our city, have no place in our country, honestly," the mayor added. "We're going to continue to be asking questions... It's still unclear why this happened. We're going to get more information on that."
At least two Boston city councilors are also reportedly looking into the matter, according to WBUR.
Apreala told NBC10 Boston the whole 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.'"
ICE confirmed that its officers stopped a jogger in West Roxbury on Tuesday.
"ICE officers were conducting surveillance as part of a targeted enforcement action Wednesday in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, 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 agency said in a statement. "An individual matching the subject's description appeared in the area associated with their subject. The ICE officers approached him, identifying themselves as Police/ICE, and asked to speak with the individual. During the encounter, ICE officers determined the individual was not the subject of their investigation and that he did not have any additional information regarding their subject or his whereabouts and was free to leave the scene."