NFL Players Help Bail Out Illegal Immigrant Who Was Being Held After DUI Conviction

August 16, 2019 Updated: August 16, 2019

Two professional football players chipped in to bail out an illegal immigrant being held for removal proceedings shortly after a DUI conviction.

Jose Bello, 22, was arrested in May and held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was held for three months because he couldn’t pay the bail, which was set at $50,000.

Bello’s bail was paid for by NFL players Josh Norman and Demario Davis, the New York Immigrant Freedom Fund, and the National Bail Fund Network, the Americal Civil Liberties Union said in a press release.

Bello’s defenders claim he was detained not because of the charge, but because he read a poem at a local government meeting.

“Jose Bello was exercising a fundamental right that we pride ourselves on as Americans,” Norman said. “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

Both players are part of the Players Coalition, a nonprofit that seeks criminal justice reform and “social justice.”

“In this month alone, we’ve seen ICE round up a 22-year old father, Jose, because he read a critical poem,” Davis said. “We’ve seen ICE round up nearly 700 people in Mississippi and leave their children without parents, we’ve seen them turn away asylum seekers who will face certain death in their home countries. Is this America? We must say no, and we must start by helping our most vulnerable.”

Norman took to Twitter to tell his followers: “I helped to post a $50,000 bond for a young man detained 87 days for exercising his 1st Amendment right of free speech.”

Bello told the Bakersfield Californian after being released that “it felt very, very good.”

Bello, who first entered the country as a 3-year-old child with his family in 2000, was asked about the convictions ICE cited after detaining him. He did not deny his criminal history but said: “I’m working really really hard on bettering myself. I’m working every day to become a better person. I just want to be a positive role model to my son.”

ICE arrested Bello in May 2018 but he was released after posting $10,000 bond and his juvenile probation was terminated and his juvenile record was sealed after the court received a number of letters of support for an application for cancellation of removal proceedings.

Bello pleaded no contest to the DUI and was convicted on April 11 this year, serving five days in jail before being released on the requirement he complete a DUI program. He was detained in May because he was still subject to being deported for being illegally in the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit claiming that Bello was arrested this year because he recited a poem critical of ICE before the Kern County Board of Supervisors, but a federal judge dismissed the suit, writing (pdf) that “an immigrant subject to removal proceedings ‘may be arrested and detained pending a decision on whether’ that person ‘is to be removed from the United States'” and that “the attorney general ‘may continue to detain the arrested’ person and may issue or revoke a related bond at any time,” citing the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1965.

“The INA further provides that the Attorney General ‘shall take into custody’ any such person who is inadmissible by reason of having committed certain crimes. ICE regards impaired driving as a ‘significant misdemeanor’ and has long held the policy that impaired driving triggers administrative arrest,” the judge added.

“ICE had an objectively reasonable legal justification to re-arrest Petitioner—even simply for his arrest for DUI,” she concluded.

“And there is no dispute that ICE has an objectively reasonable legal justification to re-arrest an immigrant already on bond who then is convicted of misdemeanor DUI. The decision to re-arrest Petitioner falls squarely within ICE’s power to enforce the INA and aligns directly with its enforcement priorities.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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