Jose Bello, a 22-year old undocumented immigrant arrested after publicly criticizing the Donald Trump administration, is free on bond after spending three months in prison thanks in part to help from a pair of NFL players.
Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman and New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis helped pay Bello’s $50,000 bail on Monday along with the New York Immigrant Freedom Fund and the National Bail Fund Network.
Why did ICE arrest Bello?
Bello, a California farmworker, read a poem titled “Dear America” in May in front of the Kern County Board of Supervisors that challenged the Trump administration and Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) for their campaign to separate and detain undocumented immigrants.
#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
“Our administration has failed,” Bello read. “They pass laws against our people, took away our rights and our freedoms and still expect to be hailed?
“Our intentions are to continue making America great. It’s time to begin standing up for what’s right. Criminalizing children, separating families — our national security —does this make it all right?”
Two days after reading his poem, ICE arrested Bello at his home on an outstanding DUI charge. Bello was charged with the DUI in January but not detained, according to the Washington Post.
ACLU challenged arrest on First Amendment grounds
A judge set his bail at $50,000, which he could not afford.
The Southern California chapter of the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the bond set by ICE as excessive. They argued that the bond and the timing of the arrest suggested retaliation for Bello’s poem and violated the First Amendment.
“ICE's chilling claim is that it may retaliate against political speakers like Jose Bello whenever it can point to an additional reason to justify its actions,” the ACLU argued. “If that were the law, ICE would have a license to punish its critics. Contrary to ICE's view, the First Amendment prohibits such blatant censorship."
A judge rejected the bid on grounds that the arrest was justified while agreeing with the ACLU’s assessment that the timing of Bello’s arrest was “highly suggestive of retaliatory intent.”
Bello imprisoned 3 months prior to help from NFL players
Bello remained in prison for three months until being bailed out on Monday.
He expressed his appreciation for the help from Norman and Davis in an interview with the Post.
“To me, it seemed like a dream,” Bello told the Post. “It’s like something that you hear about in movies.
‘Don’t let these rotten apples spoil your hopes’
Norman released a statement through the ACLU.
“Jose Bello was exercising a fundamental right that we pride ourselves on as Americans,” Norman wrote. “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.”
He continued to share his thoughts on Twitter with a message of support for immigrants.
So I say To the many others out there that are pinned down by the atrocities of what’s happening right now to you by our very own fellow citizens of this Great Country. Don’t let these rotten apples spoil your hopes & dreams of True Freedom...they....— *Joshua R. Norman (@J_No24) August 14, 2019
clearly do not know what they do & I’m truly deeply sorry for their actions.. Just know we are watching, the Whole World is, & the contributions we are making help support your fight for peace and sanctuary; we will continue until that work is done! Psalms 22:24🙏🏾#ToGodBeTheGlory— *Joshua R. Norman (@J_No24) August 14, 2019
Davis quoted the Bible with his thoughts on immigration on Sunday, prior to Bello’s release.
Christian references to immigration in Bible:— DeMario Davis (@thedemariodavis) August 11, 2019
Exodus 22:21 – “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
Exodus 23:9 – “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels... https://t.co/bu4WLtHiFj
Davis and Norman are both members of the Player’s Coalition, a group of current and former NFL players focused on social justice and racial equality issues that also includes Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin and Carolina Panthers receiver Torrey Smith.
Bello’s attorneys continue to appeal his case now that he is free on bail, according to the Post.
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