A Man Was Arrested By ICE After Criticizing Their Policies So Two NFL Players Bailed Him Out
Three months ago, we reported the ICE arrest of immigrant activist José Bello. Bello arrived in this country when he was just three years old, but he isn’t afraid to speak up and advocate for change. Bello has become a powerful activist in the undocumented community and used his poetry to criticize U.S. immigration policies. He did just that at a public forum at the Kern County Board of Supervisors by reading aloud his poem titled “Dear America.”
Less than 36 hours later, he was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and taken to the Mesa Verda detention center. The ACLU has represented Bello and contested the arrest as a violation of first amendment rights under the grounds that his arrest and the high bail bond was a “retaliatory” response from ICE to his poem. After 89 days in detention, unable to hold his son, NFL players Josh Norman of the Washington Redskins and Demario Davis of the New Orleans Saints teamed up with the New York Immigrant Freedom Fund and the National Bail Fund Network to pay Bello’s $50,000 bail.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) separated him from his son just two days after he recalled telling his son, “We will never be apart, chiquito.”
Bello’s poem effectively tells America that immigrants aren’t out to get them–they’re here to “work hard, pay taxes, and study”… and build a safe home for their families. Here’s an excerpt:
“The fight has begun
‘We will never be apart chiquito,’ is what I promised my son.
Y’all can try to justify your actions. Try to make excuses.
The bottom line here is that at the end, the people always triumph and the government loses.”
Bello is a 22-year-old father of one, a farmworker, and Bakersfield College student.
The ACLU also points to his $50,000 bond as a retaliation attempt by ICE given that he makes just $20,000 a year. During his 89 days of detention, he said, “I could see my whole future going out the window.”
“Those three months that I was detained, I just felt like it was cruel,” Bello told The Washington Post. “I couldn’t hold my child. I would have to push him away from me or I would get in trouble. I don’t think any parent should have to experience that. How do you do that to a child? I feel guilty about that, and I’m trying to make up for that time I couldn’t spend with him.”
Bellos said “it seemed like a dream” that NFL players were bailing him out.
Above is an image of Bello reunited with his chiquito niño–finally able to give his son a hug, free from ICE. “To me, it seemed like a dream,” Bello told The Washington Post. “It’s like something that you hear about in movies. I watch football, and I know how much attention and how famous those people are, so just the fact that they would look into helping me out, it was a great honor. I know who they are. I was shocked in a good way.”
Washington Redskins’ Josh Norman and New Orleans Saints’ Demario Davis made his release possible.
“Jose Bello was exercising a fundamental right that we pride ourselves on as Americans,” Washington Redskins player, Norman, told ACLU. “If he was detained for reciting a peaceful poem then we should really ask ourselves, are our words truly free? This is America right? Where the 1st Amendment is freedom of speech unless I missed the memo somewhere. He was exercising that right.”
New Orlean Saints player, Davis, remarked, “We’ve seen ICE round up nearly 700 people in Mississippi and leave their children without parents, we’ve seen them turn away asylum seekers who will face certain death in their home countries. Is this America? We must say no, and we must start by helping our most vulnerable.”
Norman and Davis are both members of the independent “Players Coalition,” which “exists to end social injustices and racial inequality so future generations have opportunity to thrive without barriers.”
The Players Coalition was founded in 2017 by Anquan Boldin and Malcom Jenkins. The Coalition also has a Task Force Board of 12 voting members, all of whom are NFL players, with the money and social influence to effect change. For example, Davis also helped push through LA House Bill 265 which expanded voting rights to returning citizens and Chris Long gave his entire year’s salary to educational initiatives.
Listen to Jose Bello’s “Dear America” to see why ICE retaliated.
The fight isn’t over. While Bello is out on bond, he’s still facing a judge’s decision about whether he will be deported or allowed to stay in America. ICE claims his arrest was the result of a DUI four months prior. ACLU suggests the timing is far more likely tied to his activism.