In May, at a public forum held by the Kern County Board of supervisors, student activist, father and farmworker José Bello read Dear America, a poem that criticizes Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 36 hours after reading the poem, which he wrote after being in ICE custody in 2018, he was detained. Now, his loved ones are raising money for his legal fees and bond as the American Civil Liberties Union argues that Bello’s First Amendment rights are being violated.
When Bello was previously in ICE custody, he was released in August 2018 after his community raised $10,000 for his bond, according to The Guardian. Then earlier this year, he read his powerful poem, which in part, said: “We demand our respect. We want our dignity back. / Our roots run deep in this country, now that’s a true fact … We don’t want your jobs. We don’t want your money. / We’re here to work hard, pay taxes, and study.”
Currently, his bond is set at $50,000, which the ACLU said is “hugely unjust” given that Bello makes about $20,000 a year. The organization has also called out ICE for targeting someone who spoke out against the government agency. “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,” ACLU wrote in a petition filed with the San Francisco district court. “His arrest and detention violate the first amendment’s prohibition on government retaliation for protected speech and its related prohibition on viewpoint discrimination. If left unaddressed, ICE’s actions will chill immigrant speakers from sharing criticisms of the agency at the very same time that its escalating aggression and increasing use of detention are at the center of public debate.”
As his community plans protests and criticizes the US agency, they’re also raising money for him on GoFundMe. Currently, the campaign has a $10,000 goal, which it has not yet reached. To help and show Bello support, donate here and read his full poem here.