Local immigration activist Jose Bello, who made national headlines after being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement twice, has been released from ICE custody after NFL players paid his bail, the American Civil Liberties Union reports.
Bello was released from Mesa Verde Detention Facility on Monday, according to the ACLU. His bail of $50,000 was paid by NFL players Josh Norman and Demario Davis, The New York Immigrant Freedom Fund, a program that pays immigration bond for individuals who are unable to pay it, and The National Bail Fund Network, a network that works to free people from pretrial incarceration and immigration jail.
“Jose Bello was exercising a fundamental right that we pride ourselves on as Americans,” Norman said. “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 unless I missed the memo somewhere. He was exercising that right.”
Bello was detained in May, for the second time, just days after he read a poem aloud at Kern County’s second Truth Act Forum, a forum that highlights law enforcement’s involvement with ICE.
His poem, titled “Dear America,” focused on injustices in detainment policies, frustrations with Trump Administration policies toward immigrants and the separation of families.
“The fight has begun,” Bello read from his poem during the forum. “At the end of the day, the people always triumph, and the government always loses.”
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California is alleging in a court order ICE violated Bello’s First Amendment rights.
“The close succession of these two events strongly indicates that ICE acted in retaliation against Mr. Bello for his speech expressing views against the agency’s actions,” the ACLU wrote in court documents filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of Bello. “If left unaddressed, ICE’s actions will chill immigrant speakers from sharing criticisms of the agency at the very same time that it’s escalating aggression and increasing use of detention are at the center of public debate.”
Davis, along with Norman, is involved with the Players Coalition, a group of professional athletes working to improve social justice and racial equality. Davis spoke of increase in ICE raids.
“We’ve seen ICE round up nearly 700 people in Mississippi and leave their children without parents,” Davis said. “We’ve seen them turn away asylum seekers who will face certain death in their home countries.”
Davis continued, “Is this America? We must say no, and we must start by helping our most vulnerable.”