Things That Matter

A Man Was Cutting Down A Tree When Police Discovered He Didn’t Have A License, So They Turned Him Into ICE

Regardless of who wins the 2020 elections and whether Donald Trump will be impeached before then or not, the past few years will be remembered by many as a traumatic period in which thousands of immigrants, many of them undocumented but some just wary of the color of their skin, lived in fear of migration authorities. There have been multiple cases of family separations and trauma that 

Jose Villalta was helping a pariente cut down a tree. His sin: not having a license to do so.

Credit: Jose Villalba / Facebook

The 31-year-old Maryland resident and citizen of El Salvador was doing something that is totally right: he was helping out a family member cut down a dead tree in his property last August 7. However, he was approached by police when he was helping because the law establishes that you need a license to do this. José Ricardo Villalta Canales (his full name) violated a state law by not having the document, a violation that is punishable with a $500 fine. However, police officers from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources went beyond a mere fine… 

This is when things went from bad to worse for Villalta, as the officers turned him over to immigration authorities.

Credit: WJLA

According to The Washington Post, the officers took five minutes to fine him for $320, “But they detained him for more than two hours after making a routine check of a national database to see if he was the subject of any outstanding state, federal or local warrants”. They went above and beyond the standard procedure, most likely motivated by Villalta’s ethnic background. It is important to mention that Villalta had no previous criminal record. At all. But a search in the database revealed that ICE has filed an administrative warrant for deportation. 

So Villalta is now suing the police officers for handing him over to ICE.

Credit: Washington Post

Villalta is now suing the authorities for what he and his lawyers claim was a wrongful arrest. He is being supported by attorneys with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. Because Maryland authorities are only meant to act on judicial or criminal warrants, and not administrative warrants, the officers were wrongful in detaining Villalta until the ICE authorities arrived. As The Washington Post reports, Villalta has since then been held in detention: “He was consequently arrested and has remained in ICE detention in Frederick County for more than three months.”

According to his defense, the case is far from ambiguous. Azadeh Erfani, an associate counsel at he Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs said unequivocally: “His rights were very much violated”. Also, cases like Villalta’s set a precedent for any law enforcement agency to call on ICE when they have a suspicion. And well, this suspicion is of course based on physical appearance and ethnicity… there really isn’t another way around it is there?

He is now suffering from depression. 

Villalta has been in the United States since he was 17-years-old, when he crossed the border by foot. His whole adult life has been spent in the United States, where he has a network of support. In a recent press conference, his aunt Mirna Canales informed that Jose is suffering from depression while on ICE detention, with the prospect of deportation to a country that he would barely recognize today looming over his future. In the United States he has been working in roofing in Rockville, and he has supported his partner’s children and several nieces and nephews. He is a hard working immigrant. 

Social media is finding clear racial implications in this case.

There is no way this would have happened if Jose Villalta was, say, a British man who had overstayed his visa. Because he is Brown, he was immediately found suspicious of being an undocumented migrant. Cases like these exacerbate the already stressful situation experienced by millions in the United States and most widely the world over. 

And some went even further and compared today’s environment to some of the darkest episodes in human history, while some MAGA dudes are bringing out their nastiness.

While some social media users are comparing this type of inter-agency cooperation to the methods used by the Gestapo during the Nazi regime, others have obviously brought out their nastiness. Come on, man, at least show some understanding of law before you bring out your venom. Cases like this bring out the best and the worst in people, and while some are sacando a relucir el cobre, supporters have rocked signs with legends such as “IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS” and “HE IS NOT A CRIMINAL”. 

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Racists Threatened To Call ICE On This Mexican Restaurant After They Kept Their Mask Rule

Things That Matter

Racists Threatened To Call ICE On This Mexican Restaurant After They Kept Their Mask Rule

Several states across the country (mostly governed by Republican leaders) have decided to repeal their mask mandates despite their own health officials urging against such moves.

Yes, the vaccine roll out has improved under the Biden administration – with nearly 2 million people getting vaccinated each day – but that is still not enough for the United States to reach herd immunity over night.

Now, thanks to these irresponsible moves by Republican governors, Americans are left to fend for themselves against anti-makers. In fact, a Mexican restaurant in Texas that decided to keep its mask mandate for diners is now facing racist attacks with people threatening to call ICE on its workers.

Texas Mexican restaurant is facing a backlash for sticking to its mask rules.

Houston’s Picos Restaurant, a small family-owned Mexican restaurant, is facing racist threatening comments after deciding to prioritize public health amid an ongoing pandemic. Several people sent hateful messages through social media and called the restaurant, threatening to report staffers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“It was just horrific,” co-owner Monica Richards told the Washington Post. “People don’t understand unless you’re in our business what it felt like, how hard it was to go through everything we went through during covid. For people to be negative toward us for trying to remain safe, so that this doesn’t continue to happen, just makes zero sense to us.”

Picos decided to maintain their mask mandate as the governor lifted the state-wide one.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) rescind the statewide mask mandate despite the fact that a vast majority of his state’s residents remain vulnerable to COVID-19. The governor has ignored the advice of his own public health officials who say the state should wait on lifting these mandates until their is a greater incidence of vaccination in communities.

With Abbotts order, Texas will become the largest state in the nation to no longer require masks, which has not come easily for many businesses that are navigating enforcement mask rules to protect employees and customers while facing backlash.

Experts agree that masks are among the most effective way to curb the spread of COVID-19, but they’ve also become a partisan symbol. Masks have become so symbolic that one conservative group is set to hold a mask burning party the day the order is lifted, according to the Washington Post.

Picos hasn’t been the only restaurant facing such a backlash.

In fact, another Mexican restaurant in Houston, Cantina Bar, has been the victim of similar threatening messages, while several staff have been intimidated by screaming customers who refuse to wear masks even while it was required by a state order. Another Houston Mexican restaurant, Cantina Barba, received similar intimidating messages, and staff have been bullied by some screaming customers who refused to wear masks while it was required statewide, co-owner Steven O’Sullivan said.

“This has been ongoing through covid,” co-owner Steven O’Sullivan told the Post. “We’ve had threats of calling ICE. I had one guy just stand there and berate one of my bartenders and tell her ‘you’re an absolute idiot, you don’t know what you’re doing. If you think these masks are going to save your life, you’re stupid’ blah, blah, blah. Nobody wants to deal with that stuff.”

Another employee at a separate restaurant had to get stitches after he was hit in the head with a glass by a maskless customer he approached, Houston Police said. Hopefully, the governor will still encourage his constituents to do what’s right and continue to wear masks when asked to do.

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Biden Is Counting On Mexico’s President To Help With Immigration But That’s A Risky Move

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Biden Is Counting On Mexico’s President To Help With Immigration But That’s A Risky Move

One of the stranger things to happen during the Trump presidency was the unlikely alliance between Trump and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). The former frequently spoke disparaging of Mexicans and pursued cruel and inhumane immigration policies that directly targeted the constituents of the latter. Yet AMLO was a major supporter of Trump’s most severe immigration policies and, in fact, helped bring them to fruition.

Now, with a new president in the White House, AMLO is being asked again to recalibrate his approach to immigration but having once been a major ally of Trump, how will he work alongside a President Biden?

Presidents Biden and AMLO host a virtual meeting to discuss a wide range of topics.

President Biden is hoping that Mexico’s President AMLO can help him avert another crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, given AMLO’s close alliance with Trump and support of his harsh immigration policies, Biden may face an uphill battle.

But as the administration faces an uptick in migrants attempting to cross into the U.S., Biden is hoping that AMLO can become a partner in preventing another cycle of out-of-control migration from Central America. The Mexican president appeared open to collaboration, issuing a joint statement committing to address climate change, the pandemic and migration north.

Their first head to head meeting comes after a rocky start for the two leaders. Mexico’s President was one of the last leaders in the world to congratulate Biden on his election victory, with many saying AMLO fears a Biden administration as potentially more interested in pressuring Mexico on its own domestic matters.

President AMLO was a key player in Trump’s harsh and inhumane immigration tactics.

Despite his racist rhetoric directly targeting Mexicans and his cruel and hardline immigration policies that largely shifted the pressure to Mexico, AMLO largely accepted Trump’s worst policies with little resistance.

As migrant caravans formed in Central America and attempted to make their way to the U.S. passing through Mexico, AMLO unleashed his newly formed Guardia Nacional to stop them in their tracks. His agents arrested and deported thousands of migrants back to their home countries, often using tear gas and other extreme tactics to do so.

And President AMLO said nothing as Trump implemented the “Remain in Mexico” policy which forced thousands of refugees and asylum seekers to await their claims on the Mexican side of the border, amid a global health pandemic, shifting the burden to Mexican officials.

Biden looks to continue many of Trump’s policies.

Although Biden campaigned against Trump’s harsh immigration policies, the president wants many of the same things from AMLO that Trump asked for: help in keeping Central American migrants from immediately surging north toward the United States through Mexico. And although Biden declared he would break sharply with Trump on immigration, he’s only abandoned some of his predecessors policies.

The Biden administration has formed a task force to unite parents separated from their children Trump’s family separations policy. He’s also begun welcoming back a limited number of asylum seekers who were exposed to violence and kidnappings in dangerous areas of Mexico under a Trump-era program. But the Biden administration has kept in place a separate Trump policy that empowers agents to rapidly expel new arrivals at the border to Mexican authorities as Biden hopes to avoid a crisis that challenged his predecessors.

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