Things That Matter

This Yale Student Is Fighting To Free Her Dad From ICE Detainment

#FreeMelecio: Viviana Speaks Out

ATTN: VIDEO RELEASE + PETITION PUSHViviana speaks out on #FreeMelecioTomorrow morning, Viviana and her legal team will be submitting an official request for Melecio’s stay of removal along with the petition (tinyurl.com/Free-Melecio). WE NEED AS MANY SIGNATURES AS POSSIBLE, ASAP. Please share this video in all of your networks and heavily plug the petition. Also, KEEP THE PHONE CALLS TO ICE COMING (see: https://goo.gl/2ig94u for instructions). Let’s win this! #Not1More #NiUnaMasThank you to Amani Hill Sebi Medina-Tayac, Athena Wheaton, & Andrew Schmidt for all of their help compiling this video. Much love.

Posted by Free Melecio on Sunday, October 15, 2017

Viviana Morales is fighting to save her father, Melecio, from deportation. It all happened because Morales, a student at Yale, wanted to petition for her father to obtain permanent residency in the U.S.

According to the family’s GoFundMe page, when Morales went with her father Melecio to a Denver court to petition for his residency, court officials prohibited Viviana from going inside the room with her father. Morales says she was told her father had been recommended for approval so there was no need for her to go inside with him.

The GoFundMe page says court officials mislead Morales: “Twenty minutes later, Melecio’s lawyer informed Viviana that her father had been aggressively removed from the room. She was not allowed to speak to her father until ICE arrived on the premises. When ICE entered, they aggressively pushed Melecio’s lawyer and interpreter out of the room, and said that they had an expedited removal proceeding for Melecio. However, they refused to show the lawyer proof.”

Viviana and her siblings have been without their father since October 12.

CREDIT: Facebook/Free Melecio

“This has been a traumatic experience for my father” the 22-year-old told WTNH news. “This has been his worst nightmare since he entered.”

The GoFundme page goes on to state that Melecio has worked in Denver ever since he moved to the U.S. in 1998.

“He has spent his time here working in construction: from the Denver Coliseum, the Denver Airport, to the booming housing market he’s helped Colorado grow. He has no criminal record, and his children are all U.S. citizens.”

Hans Meyer, Melecio’s immigration attorney, told the Denver Post that Melecio was detained because he was stopped in 1991 at the border in Texas. He was deported in 1997, and he returned to the U.S. “undetected” in 1998.

On Oct. 17, Viviana’s Yale classmates protested to call for the release of Melecio.

“Viviana is one of my very close friends, someone who has really changed the way I approach school, the way that I interact with people and this has deeply affected her so it deeply affected me as well,” Fernando Rojas, a Yale junior, told WTNH News.

“I applaud the many students and faculty who have rallied to help Viviana’s family, and I’m grateful that Dean Galvez has made La Casa a base headquarters for their efforts,” Yale College Dean Marvin Chun told the Yale Daily News. “President Salovey has directed me to ensure that Viviana is receiving support, including legal counsel and other forms of assistance. University officers are in active communication about the situation, and our thoughts are with Viviana, her father Melecio Andazola Morales, her family, and her numerous friends”

Yale students aren’t the only ones fighting to free Melecio. Universities across the country have rallied to support Viviana and her family.

Posted by Free Melecio on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Posted by Free Melecio on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Posted by Free Melecio on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Posted by Free Melecio on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

“I’m begging and asking ICE to release my dad and grant him a stay of removal. But I also think they should think deeply about what they are doing. Are they really doing this out of national safety concerns or is there a different political agenda that they’re trying to push?” Viviana told WTNH.

Supporters of Melecio are urging people to call ICE to grant the stay.

CALL TO ACTION: PHONEBANKINGNow that Melecio's attorney has filed a request for stay of removal, we need to put…

Posted by Free Melecio on Friday, October 20, 2017

Click here if you’d like to donate to Melecio’s GoFundme.

READ: The Department Of Homeland Security Will Be Reviewing Social Media Accounts Of Immigrants, Green Card Holders And Naturalized Citizens

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A Man Was Arrested By ICE After Criticizing Their Policies So Two NFL Players Bailed Him Out

Entertainment

A Man Was Arrested By ICE After Criticizing Their Policies So Two NFL Players Bailed Him Out

jno24 / d56davis / Instagram

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.”

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

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.

Credit: @MVLiberation / Twitter

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.

Credit: @ufwf / Instagram

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.

Credit: @NFL / Twitter

“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.”

Credit: @playerscoalition / Twitter

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.

READ: An Activist Read A Poem Criticizing Inhumane Immigration Policies And ICE Arrested Him Two Days Later Now His Community Is Standing Behind Him

An Ex-ICE Attorney Is Calling Out The Agency For Using False Evidence To Deport And Detain Innocent Migrants

Things That Matter

An Ex-ICE Attorney Is Calling Out The Agency For Using False Evidence To Deport And Detain Innocent Migrants

A former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lawyer has revealed that in several cases ICE agents corroborated against immigrants in order to achieve their deportation. In an in-depth interview with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates those on power, Laura Peña revealed many of the behind the scenes details of the how the government agency pursued the deportation of migrants and asylum seekers. The investigative piece highlights some of the trials and tribulations that Peña has lived through as a legal assistant to the agency where, in different cases, there was a common factor: lack of evidence to accuse immigrants of any fault that prompts their deportation.

Now she’s getting to tell her side of the story. 

Who is Laura Peña and how did she end up working for ICE?

Credit: @ProPublica / Twitter

Growing up in Harlingen, Texas, which is close to Mexico, Peña was immersed in the migrant community. Living so close to the U.S-Mexico border gave her a unique perspective on what many Latino migrants endured. She went to school with friends who were undocumented and friends whose parents also worked for the Border Patrol. After graduating high school she left the area and would get a job in the State Department. 

She would eventually take her career path in the same footsteps as her father to become a lawyer. After graduating from Georgetown Law, she saw that ICE was looking for trial attorneys but the opportunity wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Peña wasn’t sold on the concept of helping see migrants get deported, especially growing up in a migrant community herself. Family and friends were in disagreement with the thought of her working on behalf of ICE. 

 But her father, who himself was a struggling attorney, consoled her and reassured her not to pass up an opportunity like this. “Do what you need to do,” he counseled her. “Don’t worry about what others think.”

 A fellow mentor, who was also an immigration attorney, also encouraged her to take the position. He said this could be an opportunity to take the job and try to make the government agency more humane. “We need people of your mindset working on the government’s side,” she told Peña.

Peña was hired in 2014 as an ICE attorney which would be the start of a turbulent and controversial time working on behalf of the agency. These are some of the stories she told ProPublica about her experiences. 

Credit: @HispanicCaucus / Twitter

One of the mentioned cases in the investigative piece was that of Carlos, a migrant who applied for political asylum. As soon as he made his request, border and immigration agents accused him of being a member of the notoriously famous MS-13 gang in El Salvador, so this made Carlos not eligible to enter to the United States. 

This is where Peña, who followed the case, started to see the ugly true side of ICE. She did not find any semblance of a connection between Carlos and the gang, not even tattoos, that are a key part of the gang’s look or even criminal record in his own country. To the contrary, Carlos even carried an official letter from the Ministry of Justice of El Salvador certifying and clearing him of ever setting foot in a jail cell. Peña demanded proof from immigration agents that he was connected to the gang but did not obtain any. Despite the lack of any evidence of his gang affiliation, Carlos did not obtain his asylum.

Another case she revealed was that of a 6-month-old baby who was scheduled to be deported because he had been separated from his mother. Peña would eventually reunite the child with his mother but the woman was accused of carrying a false document. The immigration judge used that against her and would then order her child’s removal from the country.

This would all lead to Peña taking a step back from the agency. She now works pro bono with clients seeking asylum at the border. 

Credit: @bykenarmstrong / Twitter

All of this immigration work would overwhelm Peña over time, especially during the Trump administration’s family separation policy went into effect in Spring 2018. “Everything was stacked against the immigrants. Most couldn’t afford to hire an attorney. Few would ever win their cases.”

Peña would go on to acknowledge that the immigration system refuses to provide due process to an immigrant. but also realizes that there’s not much that could be done there. She is now working pro bono as a visiting attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, helping migrants with asylum cases. She now hopes she can properly bring justice to the countless of people that have been wrongly deported or separated at the hands of ICE. 

READ: This New Border Wall Mural Features QR Codes That You Can Scan To Hear Emotional Stories Of Deported Migrants

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