Photos courtesy of Voces de la Frontera
By H. Nelson Goodson
February 24, 2014
Milwaukee, WI - On Monday, dozens of people rallied outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office to demand for ICE agents to be restricted from going to county courthouses around the state to detain and arrest undocumented immigrants paying traffic violation citations, attending court hearings and other services. The rally was sponsored by Voces de la Frontera (VDLF, an immigrant rights non-profit organization) who reported, that the courthouse raids has or will keep undocumented immigrants from seeking restraining orders on domestic incidents, paying fines or going to hearings for fear of being detained by ICE. Most of the arrests made by ICE at Wisconsin county courthouses have been for minor driving citations during court sessions where Spanish interpreters are required.
Despite anti-immigrant sentiments that undocumented immigrants have no rights in the country, the U.S. Constitution extends all afforded rights of due process, free speech and equal protection of the law, whether federal, state or local. Undocumented Immigrants are afforded the right to filed complaints, lawsuits and other litigation under the law, and ICE has been engaging in illegal activity and a violation of federal law by creating a culture of intimidation by arresting individuals seeking protection, filing complaints, lawsuits or paying minor fines.
Last year, the California based ACLU filed a complaint with ICE stating that rogue ICE agents were arresting undocumented immigrants while at courthouse hearings, getting marriage licenses or paying minor traffic fines. The ICE agency has become one of the most corrupt agencies in the country that has been found to engage in illegal raids, coerced immigrants to voluntarily sign deportation authorization, kept legal advisors from immigrants during proceedings, failed to contact foreign consulates about those detained and other irregularities, which court cases have found. As of today, not one ICE agent or supervisor has ever been convicted, disciplined or terminated for engaging in such illegal or questionable activities. The lack of Congressional oversight and implementation of laws to prosecute ICE agents who intentionally engage in illegal activities that deprive the Constitutional rights of immigrants has never resulted in one single conviction. Isn't It time to implement accountability for ICE agents, their supervisors and those in ICE administration that know it's happening, but ignore it?
ICE has targeted courthouse hearings around the country and made countless arrests of non-criminal individuals, despite a statement released from ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro in Chicago that stated, ICE "is focused on sensible, effective immigration enforcement by implementing the following removal priorities: convicted criminals, those who re-entered the United States after having been previously removed, and those who have outstanding deportation orders." Montenegro also admits that ICE targets specific individuals mentioned and "not random sweeps or raids," but use all resources available to track these individuales based on their removal priorities. VDLF believes otherwise and alleged that ICE targets Spanish speaking immigrants while attending court hearings or seeking other court services.
In one particular case, José Calderon who is now facing deportation was at Monday's rally to give his testimony about being detained and processed by ICE at an Ozaukee courthouse hearing for a minor citation, according to VDLF Facebook page posting. VDLF posted on Monday that Calderon was detained in the Ozaukee County Courthouse on July 8, 2013, after attending a hearing and paying a fine for driving without a license. Aside from two citations for driving without a license, Calderon has no criminal record. He has lived in Milwaukee since 1997, and is married with two young U.S. born children. Calderon is a member of VDLF.
After Calderon paid his traffic fine, two ICE agents in plainclothes and an Ozaukee County Sheriff's deputy stopped him. The ICE agents asked him in English, if he was José Calderon.
When Calderon replied yes, the ICE agents detained him and then led him to another room in the courthouse, where three other ICE agents in plainclothes were holding approximately four individuals they had detained earlier at the courthouse. They were all Latinos previously present in court for hearings related to driving without a license.
Calderon's immigration attorney was also present with him at the court hearing, but the ICE agents refused to allow him to accompany his client into the private room. They proceeded to question Calderon. From the courthouse, Calderon was taken to the ICE office in downtown Milwaukee, interrogated more, and released on his own recognizance, according to VDLF. He is now facing deportation and a campaign to have him remain in the U.S. has been initiated by VDLF.