Things That Matter

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

José Bello came to the U.S. when he was just three years old. In 2018, he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) only to be released on bond after his community raised $10,000 for his freedom. After his experience in an immigrant detention center, he wrote a poem critical of U.S. immigration policy, titled “Dear America.” Bello read that poem at a public forum at the Kern County Board of Supervisors in May. 

Less than 36 hours later, he was rearrested by ICE and taken back to the Mesa Verde detention center. THE ACLU has filed a petition in the San Francisco district court claiming his rearrest is a violation of first amendment rights. Two months later, he’s still in Mesa Verde detention center, and no decision has been made by his judge.

José Bello is a student at Bakersfield College, a farmer, and a father.

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

Here’s a taste of his poem:

“Dear America,

Our administration has failed.
They passed laws against our people,
Took away our rights and our freedom,
and still expect to be hailed?
Chaless!

Dear America,

You and your administration cause fear,
fear through Separation.
Instead of building trust with our people, do y’all prefer this racial tension?

Oppressed.”

A theme runs through his poem, touching on family separation.

Credit: @MVLiberation / Twitter

He speaks to all Americans when he says:

“Dear Americans,

You might be asking yourself, “What’s the whole point of repeating these facts?”
Well I am here to let you know, we want to feel safe, whether we’re Brown, Asian or Black.
We don’t want your jobs. We don’t want your money. Were here to work hard, pay taxes and study!”

Chillingly, two days before he was separated from his baby, he said, “We will never be apart, chiquito.”

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

“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.”

A GoFundMe set up for Bellos says that he received a DUI under “shady circumstances.”

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

He essentially forfeited his rights without knowing it, resulting in a no contest charge. He hasn’t had a drink since and has been doing community service work as part of his plea. Bello has been compliant in paying all his fines and attended all his hearings.

There is no other known reason to detain him except in retaliation to his public criticism of the system.

Credit: ACLU of Southern California / YouTube

The ACLU’s filing is entirely predicated on the close succession of the two events being the reason for his arrest, saying it “strongly indicates that ICE acted in retaliation against Mr. Bello for his speech expressing views against the agency’s actions.”

The fear is that the move will chill immigrant activists from speaking out at a time when ICE’s unchecked power and aggression is escalating.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

Still, Bello is writing poetry from the confines of Mesa Verde. This time, he’s simply asking, “why?”

Meanwhile, Judge Kim is weighing her decision after Bello finally had his court hearing July 15th.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

That’s two whole months after he was arrested. Two months away from his child. Judge Kim could take anywhere from two days to a month to make her decision. 

There is a movement is in motion to #FreeJoseBello.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

Jose Bello is a crucial member of the immigrant community in San Francisco. He’s organized a lobbying workshop for his college’s club Latinos Unidos Por Educación. He led and organized an immigrant caravan drive, to help ensure no child went without clean clothes or food. 

You can help by donating to Bello’s GoFundMe to help make his unjustly high $50,000 bond to be reunited with his son.

Credit: Free Jose Bello / Facebook

The ACLU has said the $50,000 bond is “hugely unjust” since Bello is a student who makes just $20,000 a year. The GoFundMe has only raised $2,375 at the time of this publication. #FreeJoseBello.

Watch his full poem below.

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