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.”

ICE Subpoenas Denver Officials Requesting Info On Undocumented Migrants But State Lawyer Says They’re Not Valid

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ICE Subpoenas Denver Officials Requesting Info On Undocumented Migrants But State Lawyer Says They’re Not Valid

@workpermitcom / Twitter

It is the right, under the constitution, of state and local governments, including law enforcement, to refuse to cooperate with federal law. In other words, if the federal government issues a mandate, local officials do not have to comply. That is why some cities abide by Sanctuary policies to protect undocumented immigrants that are being persecuted by government agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, ICE isn’t bowing down to the constitution and is taking matters to the courts. 

Earlier this week, Homeland Security has issued a subpoena to Denver law enforcement to get information on three Mexican nationals and one Honduran who were previously in custody. 

“Since we have no cooperation at the Denver justice center, we are modifying our tactics to produce information,” Henry Lucero, deputy executive associate director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, said, according to the Associated Press

According to the AP, Denver officials have 14 days to respond to the subpoena in three of the cases, but in the other, they have three days to respond. ICE officials allege that all four foreign nationals have been in jail for sexual assault and child abuse and have been previously deported.

“In the past, we had full support. We collaborated in the interest of public safety,” Lucero added. “This is a drastic change. And one ICE is forced to do and puts other agencies on notice that we don’t want this to happen. We want to protect the public.”

Officials at the Denver mayor’s office said they would not comply with the demands of ICE because the paperwork issued by ICE are not proper subpoenas but rather administrative forms and not legal document signed by a judge. 

“The documents appear to be a request for information related to alleged violations of civil immigration law,” Chad Sublet, Senior Counsel to the Department of Safety in Denver, wrote, according to Time magazine. “Based on these facts, we are denying your request.”

Sublet also said that Denver officials have collaborated with ICE on information previously with other requests. He showed documentation that proves Denver responded to “88 requests by ICE between October and December of last year.”

Despite the support of local officials of Sanctuary policies, the majority of those cities have been struck by ICE as they have conducted numerous raids there, including in Denver. 

Cities including Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago all have protections in place for undocumented people, but that has only fueled ICE to conduct raids there and elsewhere. Last year in September, ICE conducted raids in Colorado and Wyoming and, within four days, arrested 42 undocumented immigrants. 

“It is our belief that state sanctuary policies [do] not keep the community safe,” John Fabbricatore, the acting director of the Denver ICE field office, said last year, according to KDVR news. 

“We don’t believe deportation is ever the answer to what criminal activity might be going on,” Jordan García, with the Colorado Rapid Response Network, said in response to the raids

In 2017, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock signed a law that stated law officials would not comply with ICE in any capacity. 

The Denver Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act was first signed unanimously by the Denver City Council, which was then signed by Mayor Hancock. The mandate “bans city officials from asking an arrested individual’s immigration status.”

While some city officials have prohibited the collaboration between local officials and federal agencies, that has not stopped some from working with ICE to arrest undocumented immigrants. 

Last year in September, the Milwaukee Police Department assisted ICE agents in the detainment of a local resident who was undocumented. Even though Milwaukee does not have a Sanctuary policy in place, Police Chief Morales had previously said a year before they would not collaborate with ICE. 

“I promised to bring back the public trust,” Morales said in 2018. “My job is to bring (back) trust from the community and work with them; my job is not to go out and enforce those types of laws.”

Those statements are why people were outraged that local Milwaukee officers assisted ICE in the detainment of an undocumented father. 

“Chief Morales is gonna love to see police collaborating with ICE,” a bystander said last year as he witnessed ICE and local police working together during that arrest. The Mayor of Milwaukee and police stood on the same grounds that police would “not inform federal immigration officials of whereabouts or behavior of any suspect illegal immigrant.” However, that’s only if a person has never been arrested for a serious crime. 

READ: Woman Records Scene Inside Family Car As ICE Pulls Husband Out While Daughters Cry And Scream

Migrants At This ICE Detention Center Are Being ‘Looked After’ By An Alleged Neo-Nazi And This Sets Off All The Alarm Bells

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Migrants At This ICE Detention Center Are Being ‘Looked After’ By An Alleged Neo-Nazi And This Sets Off All The Alarm Bells

Jerry Ryans / Flickr

Much has been discussed (but never enough, of course!) about how ICE is hiring for-profit corporations to run its detention facilities. These facilities have been witness, according to activist organizations and detainees themselves, to horrific acts of abuse and negligence. Those housed in ICE detention centers often see their mental and physical health deteriorate. Suicides are common, as are fatal and near-fatal complications product of medical mishandling. Anyone in their right mind would ask how this is possible. Aren’t migrants and refugees being cared for by other human beings who should have at least a minimum level of empathy?

It would be irresponsible to generalize and imply that all personnel at detention centers lack compassion, but a recent VICE investigation reveals that there is something seriously wrong with at least one individual who holds a senior position in a detention facility in Nevada, and who has previously worked in government prisons. 

Travis Frey, a captain at a for-profit detention center has posted in a Neo-Nazi website, where he said that “Deep down, no one really gives a shit about racism.” 

Credit: USDHS

The 31-year-old man is a captain at the Nevada Southern Detention Center, which is run by CoreCivic, a highly profitable company contracted by ICE to house undocumented migrants. The fact that someone with a white nationalist agenda is in charge of guaranteeing the safety of undocumented migrants, most of whom are non-white, is troubling. VICE also revealed that Frey sought to establish a white nationalist chapter in his area. He served in the Marines between 2006 and 2008. 

Frey joined the Neo-Nazi website Iron March in 2013 and posted at least a dozen times.

When he posted the bulk of his messages on Iron March between 2016 and 2017, Frey was working at a CoreCivic run prison in Indianapolis. This facility was also authorized to house ICE detainees. The site has been shut down, but its content was leaked in November.

Iron March was fertile ground for far-right ideology and bigotry, as VICE reports: “The foundations of violent neo-Nazi groups such as Atomwaffen were established in Iron March chats, and white nationalist leaders like Matthew Heimbach have said they were radicalized by the time they spent on the site.”

Frey also expressed his wish to get like-minded fascists in Indiana together, which amounts to basically opening a chapter of white nationalists. He wrote in Iron March: “I’m trying to find all the NS [National Socialist] guys in Indiana to get together for a meet and greet.”

Frey used the screen name “In Hoc Signo Vinces”: there literally is a fascist looking after Brown and Black migrants.

Through some personal details posted on the site, including his phone number and email, VICE was able to identify Frey. His Latin username means “In this sign thou shalt conquer” and is used by the military around the world. Interestingly, it was also the title of the American Nazi Party’s manifesto, which is quite revealing when it comes to figuring out Frey’s politics. He posted virulent messages such as: “any ‘man’ who gets that upset about ‘virulent racism’ couldn’t knock out a tooth even if I tied my hands behind my back.”

He also spit out some conspiracy theories, of course, and people on Twitter are questioning how he ended up in this job in the first place.

Other things he said included “heads of world governments and the entertainment industry are under Satanic influences” and “Dark, dark shit goes on in the corridors of power and these rats need to be purged from their nests”. Frey self-proclaimed as a fascist, by the way. VICE tried contacting him but he hung up on them and CoreCivic has not responded to the allegations. Frey has also deactivated his LinkedIn account. 

And others are very upset at how ICE detention centers seem to attract the worst.

There will be a lot of PR work ahead for both CoreCivic and ICE as they try to explain how and why Frey got his job. Are there screening mechanisms in place? Is an officer’s past online presence scrutinized? All of these questions will eventually need some answers.

Racism seems to be an ever-present problem in the corrections industry. Prisons themselves are micro social systems highly defined by race relations. Based on ethnicity, Black and Brown populations are still the biggest in the United States correctional system, and migrant detention facilities are overwhelmingly occupied by people of color.

Revelations such as Frey’s past (it is unclear whether he still holds these beliefs) reveal the vulnerable position in which these populations live. Having guards who may have a racial bias can certainly put detainees at risk of being abused.