Things That Matter

A High School Student Is Being Detained By ICE But His School Is Rallying Support Behind Him

A New Haven, Connecticut school was rocked by the news that one of its students had been detained by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). The announcement by the principal came over Wilbur Cross High School’s PA system and sent shockwaves throughout classrooms.

Mario Aguilar was arrested by ICE when the 18-year-old attended a court hearing to handle charges over a traffic accident. Students and teachers were unsettled by his detention. They decided to support Aguilar through the immigration process and fight against his deportation. 

Teachers even tried to send him his homework — a symbolic gesture that they were still holding a space for him in their hearts, minds, and classrooms. ICE sent it back.

Teachers are heartbroken over Aguilar’s detention. 

Students and teachers orchestrated a coordinated effort to support Aguilar. They wrote letters to ICE to influence his release. They showed up to his court hearing. Students printed “Free Mario” posters and stickers to raise money for his commissary. They kept his desk empty in Spanish class believing if they did that maybe Aguilar would come home soon.  

Teachers sent him his homework and some books — but it was sent back, labeled return to sender. ICE asserts that if it is not related to his case, Aguilar can’t have it, according to CNN

“Mario was hundreds of miles away from his family, from his home. He got stability at school and security within this community, until he was taken from us,” Principal Edith Johnson, whose parents came to the mainland from Puerto Rico, said at a press conference. “Throughout my years as an educator, I’ve lost too many children to community violence, tragic accidents, medical conditions and significant trauma that keeps our students out of school — and now, another terrifying variable certain to take students off course, with ICE arrests.”

Aguilar’s Spanish teacher Mary Perez Estrada was there during his asylum hearing. She was one of the teachers who sent him books she hoped would comfort him. “As Mario spoke before the court, detailing how he’d fled persecution from gangs in Guatemala, Perez Estrada hoped the judge would see what she did in her student — someone who deserves a chance,” according to CNN. “The judge didn’t make a ruling that day. He told the court he’d announce his decision on December 12.”

Wilbur Cross students demand that ICE “Free Mario.”

Aguilar was detained by ICE while attending a court hearing related to his involvement in a car crash. When his cellphone slid off of his dashboard he accidentally hit a parked car when he attempted to retrieve the phone. No one was hurt and the vehicle was only minorly damaged. 

“I hope that he knows we’re fighting for him and I hope that helps, but that’s very minimal when you’re stripped away of your humanity,” said CT Students for a Dream organizer Anthony Barroso. “We’re here to also to show Mario if he can hear the news, that we are fighting for him, and many others in the same situation.”

Doing nothing, even if what is being done won’t change the result, did not feel like an option. For the students and teachers, for Aguilar’s community, they understood that being deported back to Guatemala could mean sending him back to his death. 

“The goal is to let everybody know what the situation is, spread the word, so we can be a bigger community,” junior Wilbur Cross High School student Stephanie Pawcar told NBC.“I don’t personally know Mario, but he is a student at Wilbur Cross and it’s really important because it’s something that needs to be talked about.”

According to Principal Johnson, students have written over 400 letters in support so far with more rallies and protests planned. 

Students and teachers are arguing that Aguilar has a right to fight his deportation.

Aguilar’s peers believe he should be able to stay in the United States and fight his case in the courts, rather than being sent back to the country he fled when he was 16. Gabriel Gonzalez is a senior at Aguilar’s school and a budding filmmaker. She is utilizing the medium to create a film to help her classmates understand why they should care about Aguilar’s case. “He wasn’t known before, but now literally there’s posters around the school with his face on it everywhere.

People didn’t know about him because he was just a regular student,” Gonzalez told CNN.

“But now the fact that just this ordinary student was taken, his whole life has been turned upside down because he happens to be from somewhere else, shows that this can happen to anyone. And it shouldn’t happen to anyone, because we’re all just trying to live our lives as teenagers or normal, everyday people walking around the street.”

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Biden Nominates Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez To Lead ICE And Here’s Why That Matters

Things That Matter

Biden Nominates Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez To Lead ICE And Here’s Why That Matters

For years now, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been enforcing cruel and, in many opinions, illegal immigration policies that have affected the most vulnerable among us. And they’ve been doing it without a permanent leader who can be held accountable.

The Trump administration relied on interim leaders and deputy secretaries to head the sprawling and powerful agency. Now, President Biden has nominated a frequent outspoken Trump critic to lead the agency and many are hopeful there could be real change.

The White House has nominated Texas sheriff Ed Gonzalez to lead ICE.

President Joe Biden has nominated a Texas sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, to lead ICE. Gonzalez has been the sheriff of Harris County (parts of Houston, TX) since 2017, leading the state’s largest sheriffs department. He has led a team of 5,000 employees in the position and previously served 18 years with the Houston Police Department, rising to the rank of sergeant, according to his profile on his office’s website.

Gonzalez has also been a vocal critic of elements of former President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement policies.

Gonzalez is the second such critic to be selected by Biden for a senior position in the Department of Homeland Security, following the nomination two weeks ago of Tucson, AZ., Police Chief Chris Magnus to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Gonzalez has long been a voice of reason within law enforcement leading many to be hopeful for change.

During his first term as sheriff Gonzalez ended a program with ICE that trained 10 Harris County deputies to determine the immigration status of prisoners, and hold for deportation those in the country illegally.

As sheriff he also opposed Texas legislation requiring local law enforcement to determine individuals’ immigration status, according to The Texas Tribune. The legislation was viewed as targeting so-called “sanctuary cities.” Gonzalez, like many in law enforcement, said the approach would destroy trust and make their job protecting communities more difficult.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas praised Biden’s pick in a statement Tuesday.

“Sheriff Ed Gonzalez is a strong choice for ICE Director,” Mayorkas said. “With a distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, Sheriff Gonzalez is well-suited to lead ICE as the agency advances our public safety and homeland security mission. I hope the Senate will swiftly confirm Sheriff Gonzalez to this critical position.”

ICE has long been missing a permanent director to lead the agency.

Gonzales would succeed Tae Johnson, who has been serving as acting ICE director since Jan. 13. He previously served as the agency’s deputy director.

ICE has not had a permanent director since 2017. The agency operated with five acting directors under the Trump administration. This comes as the Biden administration has faced challenges at the border, including a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S.

The announcement of Gonzalez’s nomination comes on the heels of another major announcement from DHS. Mayorkas also announced Tuesday that he has directed ICE and Customs and Border Protection to place new limits on civil immigration enforcement actions in or near courthouses.

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Tate’s Cookies Threatened to Report Undocumented Workers to ICE If They Unionized

Culture

Tate’s Cookies Threatened to Report Undocumented Workers to ICE If They Unionized

Photo via chocolleto/Instagram

Fans of the crispy, buttery Tate’s cookies might be sad when they hear this news. According to current employees, the popular cookie business has been threatening employees who are trying to unionize.

According to multiple employees, Tate’s cookies threatened to contact ICE if workers vote to unionize next month.

According to Gothamist, most of Tate Bake Shop’s 432 employees are undocumented workers. But the National Labor Relations Act says that undocumented workers have a lawful right to unionize.

The powerhouse baked goods company Mondelēz International owns Tate’s cookies. Additionally, Mondelēz owns other popular brands like Oreo and Chips Ahoy. Local union leaders have called the company “anti-union on steroids”.

Once Tate’s cookies heard rumblings of their workers unionizing, however, they hired an anti-labor consultant. The consultant, Carlos Flores, brags on LinkedIn about keeping businesses “labor free”.

“They began threatening people based on their immigration status, telling them that if their documents are not in order and they attempted to join the labor union they would get deported,” said Eastern States’ Union president, Cosmo Lubrano.

The consultant allegedly told workers that he would review their documentation to see if “everything was in order”. If it wasn’t, he said ICE might “send them back”.

“Just because a worker wants to organize, wants to have representation doesn’t mean a company should make their life miserable,” said Julio, an undocumented worker, to The New York Times.

Tate’s cookies employees only began to discuss the possibility of unionizing when the pandemic hit. Workers felt that the cookie company might not protect them should they fall ill.

“We were in the heart of the pandemic at that time and they didn’t know any of the rules that applied to them,” said Anthony Miranti, an Eastern States’ union delegate.

“Will they get paid if they have to self-quarantine? How do they get safety equipment? They were telling us about how they’re all at minimum wage and needed more paid time off and there was just nobody to listen to their problems.”

Officially, Mondelēz denies all claims or threatening workers. They released a statement saying: “Any allegation that the company has violated any aspect of the National Labor Relations Act is untrue. Tate’s prides itself on treating all its employees with respect, and we have fostered over many years an inclusive, supportive, caring work environment and culture with our employees.”

Despite the threats to their livelihood, many workers still believe unionizing will ultimately be beneficial.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who work in union shops. They say things are better,” said an undocumented worker by the name of Catalina to the New York Times. “Why not give this an opportunity?”

As Miranti says, “I think the workers that produce these products should be able to put their heads down on their pillows at night and know their job is secured, that their family has the best coverage out there, that they’ll have a pension to retire on someday.”

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