(LOS ANGELES) — An undocumented immigration activist was freed from an ICE detention center in Southern California nearly three months after he was first detained, thanks to the help of some NFL players and multiple organizations, his lawyers said.
Jose Bello, 22, was released from the Mesa Verde ICE Detention Center in Bakersfield on Monday, according to a press release from the ACLU of Southern California.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Bello in May after he presented a poem he wrote criticizing family separations and the Trump administration at a public forum on immigration issues.
His $50,000 bond was paid for by Josh Norman, a cornerback for the Washington Redskins, and Demario Davis, a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints.
“For 87 days, we kept a man from his freedom & family for reciting a poem,” Davis tweeted on Tuesday. “Yesterday he was able to post bail. This dehumanizing, psychological torture needs to stop. And we can stop it.”
For 87 days we kept a man from his freedom & family for reciting a poem. Yesterday he was able to post bail. This dehumanizing, psychological torture needs to stop. And we can stop it. Listen to Jose’s poem #DearAmerica https://t.co/FOAbS2zRXg https://t.co/b0c47lEk6s
— Demario Davis #56 (@demario__davis) August 13, 2019
Norman called Bello’s story “unfortunately … not unique.”
“ICE is using detention and deportation as weapons to silence immigrant activists and I’ve seen this 1st hand through our work at the border with my brother,” Norman tweeted, referring to his and Davis’ work together.
#DearAmerica, We’ve witnessed a lot these past few years. Yesterday was another example of that, where I saw the price tag on freedom. When I helped to post a $50,000 bond for a young man detained 87 days for exercising his 1st Amendment right of free speech … pic.twitter.com/uffYiES86S
— *Joshua R. Norman (@J_No24) August 14, 2019
Davis and Norman are members of the Players Coalition, a group of professional athletes working to improve social justice and racial equality. The New York Immigrant Freedom Fund and the National Bail Fund Network also contributed to paying Bello’s bail.
A spokesperson for ICE could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bello’s arrest came about two days after he recited a poem at a Kern County public forum on the impact of California’s sanctuary laws. The poem, which was subsequently posted to YouTube by the ACLU, accused those in power of causing fear through separation.
“We don’t want your jobs. We don’t your money. We’re here to work, pay taxes and study,” Bello said in his poem on May 14.
“It’s time to begin standing up for what’s right,” he continued. “Criminalizing children, separating families. ‘Our national security.’ Does that make it alright? No, it doesn’t, and it won’t.”
The poem was called “Dear America.”
He was unable to pay his own bail because his job as a farmworker only brings in about $20,000 a year, the ACLU said.
Bello said he saw his “whole future go out the window” while he was in ICE custody, he told Bakersfield ABC-affiliate KERO-TV.
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundations of Southern California and Northern California filed a federal lawsuit on Bello’s behalf, charging that ICE violated his free speech rights.
Norman said that Bello was exercising his First Amendment right to free speech by reciting the poem.
“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,” Normal said in a statement.
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