Reports from Arizona, New York City, and Washington D.C. indicate officers of ICE and the FBI patrolled protests, and racially profiled some protesters.
Latinos have joined the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in large numbers in states like New York, and Arizona. They are showing solidarity against police brutality and racism — but some face additional risks while doing so. Regardless of immigration status, some Latinos denounce being racially profiled and targeted while protesting.
On June 3, a Puerto Rican male, and military vet, was detained by five agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) while he was walking in a Black Lives Matter protest in New York City. The incident, captured on video, showed agents with weapons, forcefully holding him down.
According to NBC News, a spokesperson for HSI said “the incident was not related to immigration, but that the agents believed the man had a weapon and could be a threat to public safety. No arrest was made after no weapon was found.”
Terry Lawson, a supervising policy attorney at the Immigrant Defense Project, said she has been in touch with the male individual — who is choosing not to disclose his identity — and said to be weighing his options about possibly suing the federal agents for the detainment after sustaining substantial injuries.
“I spoke to him on Saturday, and he informed me that he was headed to the hospital,” Lawson told The Americano. “He wasn’t feeling well. He felt his head spinning. He had a CAT scan. He was sent home, and he is now resting.”
“He sent me pictures of bruises on his arm,” Lawson added. “He had injuries on his head, his knee, his arm, finger marks on his arm. He was really terrified. The day before, he let me know that he had trouble sleeping.”
“Shoulder to Shoulder” in Washington D.C.
Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, boasted about deploying agents to BLM protests. On June 2, he tweeted that more than 600 officers from Homeland Security, including members of ICE, Borders Protection and the TSA, were “stepping up again” by standing “shoulder to shoulder” with the Secret Service, Federal Protective Service, and other federal and local law enforcement during the demonstrations in Washington, D.C.
ICE Detention in Phoenix
On May 30, Máxima Guerrero, a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA,) was arrested soon after leaving a BLM protest in Phoenix, Arizona. She described the details of her 24-hour detainment period in ICE detention on her GoFundme page.
“This weekend, I was taken in by Phoenix PD,” she wrote. “After many hours, I was then transferred to 4th Ave Jail (Where Penzone collaborates with ICE), and many hours from there, I was transported to ICE facilities in PHX. At this point, I was set to be sent to Eloy Detention Center, which right now holds one of the highest numbers of COVID 19 positive cases.”
Mitzi Castro, Guerrero’s best friend, told AZCentral.com, that Guerrero’s arrest speaks to a more significant issue of the continuous racial profiling of Latinos by the police and immigration officials.
“This is just showing what’s really happening,” Castro said. “Not only to activists, to organizers, but people [like] Máxima, she was doing legal observing, was profiled, not only profiled, [but also] arrested getting into her car.”
Undocumented Protestors Have Rights
Nicole Melaku, Executive Director for the National Partnership for New Americans, said in an interview with The Americano that undocumented people face additional risks if they’re protesting on federal properties, but she added that should deter anyone from exercising their right to protest.
“I would never tell someone who to do,” Melaku said. “Especially because of COVID concerns, but this is a transformative moment, at a level we have never seen before, and DACA people are a part of this country, so they have every right to be out there voicing their frustrations.”
However, as was the case with the Puerto Rican man from New York, it is not just undocumented Latinos that are being racially profiled at BLM protests, but Latinos in general. Some feel their experiences with law enforcement align with those of Black people, NBC News reports.
Lawson says the FBI has been interviewing people arrested at BLM protests and asking them about their political affiliations. She also added that once people are arrested and fingerprinted, that data is shared within agencies. In her opinion, it’s essential that anyone who attends the protests to know their rights — as stated by organizations like Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FAIR).
“Regardless of their immigration status, they have a first amendment right, and they have the right to protest,” Lawson said. “At the same time, if they are at a protest, they do risk being surveilled or arrested by ICE/HSI or by local police.”
A ruling against ICE in New York
On Wednesday, a federal judge for the Southern District of New York ruled that federal authorities, including ICE, cannot make civil arrests in or around the state’s courthouses.
The decision by Judge Jed S. Rakoff came after a suit filed by New York state and the Brooklyn district attorney, asking to strike down a federal directive which the plaintiffs said had dramatically increased civil immigration arrests in and around New York State courthouses. Immigrant groups had joined in the suit as “amici curiae”— friends of the court.
According to Rakoff, the federal directive issued by the Trump administration in 2017 and codified in January 2018 created a change in policy that was “arbitrary and capricious.” The judge also reaffirmed a centuries-old common law privilege against civil immigration arrest to those “in New York state courthouses, or on courthouse grounds,
or necessarily traveling to or from court proceedings.”
This article has been updated to reflect a change in Nicole Melaku’s title to Executive Director for the National Partnership for New Americans.