On Monday, Oct. 5, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement admitting that agents stopped and questioned a Black man jogging in Boston while searching for a Haitian national the previous day.
Bena Apreala, a 29-year-old Black man, was jogging in West Roxbury when two SUVs pulled up beside him. One vehicle blocked the sidewalk in front of him and the other pulled up by him along the street.
Apreala said the men who got out of the cars did not identify themselves as members of law enforcement and proceeded to question him. The agents said they were searching for a man whose description matched Apreala’s appearance.
“They hopped out, at least one was armed, they had on tactical vests and driving huge unmarked cars. Nobody was helping me I was by myself and anything could have happened to me,” Apreala said to CBS Boston.
After he noticed a badge with “ICE” on it, he asked the men if they were ICE agents and they said yes. Apreala told the agents he was not an immigrant and later said that he was born in Boston and had no clue why he had been stopped. He said the agents told him that immigration is not the only issue ICE is concerned with. Apreala gave the agents his name and address but did not have his ID on him at the time.
Apreala said the agents asked him what he was doing in the area, and where he was from. He recorded part of the encounter on his phone. The footage captures the agents asking if they can check to see if Apreala has tattoos that match the those on the man they are searching for, but he declined.
A statement released by ICE about the incident says that the agents were “conducting surveillance” in the area and believed Apreala matched the description of a Haitian national with criminal convictions whom they were searching for.
“ICE regularly conducts targeted enforcement operations dedicated to apprehending removable foreign nationals,” the statement said. ICE also said the agents did identify themselves when they stopped the jogger, although Apreala claims they did not.
Apreala said he was “extremely nervous” during the encounter, in light of recent events of police violence and racial profiling that have captured the nation’s attention. He believes he was racially profiled and noted that none of the other people jogging in the area were stopped.
Mayor Marty Walsh called the incident unlawful and unacceptable. On Twitter, congresswoman Ayanna Pressley called for an immediate investigation to find out how many ICE agents are on Boston’s streets.
The ACLU has announced it is representing Apreala and is investigating the incident.