People in Mattawa fearful of law enforcement affiliation with IC - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

People in Mattawa fearful of law enforcement affiliation with ICE

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MATTAWA, WA - In response to fearful rumors spreading in Mattawa, reporter Rex Carlin sat down with the police chief. 

People seem to think law enforcement will be going door to door, checking for undocumented immigrants in Mattawa. So tonight, the police and fire chiefs in Mattawa are speaking up and saying that simply isn't happening, and that all people are safe using the city's services.

Officials say it's been a persisting problem in Mattawa for years: people scared to report a crime, people scared to call for an ambulance when they need help for fear of deportation...but the police and fire chiefs in Mattawa say those fears are unfounded.

"One thing that myself and our officers make it a point to let everybody know is my patch doesn't say anything about immigration. We're here to enforce the law," said Chief Joe Harris with the Mattawa Police Department. "We have absolutely no reason to ask and we don't care where anybody is from. If you're a victim of a crime, we're going to help you." 

Chief Harris says rumors have been flying through Mattawa about law enforcement officers knocking on doors looking for undocumented immigrants. He says not only does his department not handle anything to do with immigration, they also don't help federal agencies with any of it either.

"I have never, ever had anybody from immigration, whether it's Border Patrol, ICE, ERO, ever call me and say, 'hey, I want a list of all the undocumented people in your community.' Never happens," Chief Harris said.

Chief Harris adds that with a couple exceptions, if a federal agency was going to come into Mattawa for any reason, it would let the local police department know ahead of time...and he says they haven't been notified of any ICE agents knocking on doors in Mattawa.

While in Mattawa today, Rex Carlin was told that many undocumented immigrants are scared to even call 911 when they need a medic or if they're seriously ill.

In these cases, the HIPAA law protects everyone - citizen, documented immigrant, undocumented immigrant - from their information being shared, and violating HIPAA laws can come with costly consequences for healthcare providers and first responders, so that shouldn't be of concern to someone needing medical attention.

"We do not ask for documentation or ID on any call," said Chief Harris. "We're held to a HIPAA standard, and all that information is confidential."

A spokesperson from ICE told Rex Carlin this afternoon over the phone that door-to-door scams from people claiming to be ICE agents have popped up in areas around the country recently, asking for money in exchange for protection, and she provided information for what to do if someone claiming to be an ICE agent knocks on your door.

The local agencies in Mattawa say they're just here to help, so if you do need assistance, call or visit the police department or fire department because as they say, they're just here to help.

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