Man Who Was Ejected From The United States After Appearing In A Film Critical Of ICE Asks Court To Roll Back Removal
from the ICE,-however,-is-still-the-'worst-of-the-worst' dept
Under president Donald Trump, ICE went from barely tolerable to fascist stormtroopery, doing anything in its power to kick people out of the country. Trump claimed he was just trying to make the nation safer by ridding us of the “worst of the worst.” His vague directives lit a fire under the worst ICE employees, giving them free rein to forcibly eject as many people as possible, even if those people were not the “worst,” nor even trending towards that direction.
ICE struggled to find (figuratively [but also maybe literally?]) boatloads of hardened criminals to send packing, so it decided quantity was preferable to quality. To cite just one example of ICE’s enthusiasm for ejecting even the best and brightest (along with everyone else), the agency set up and ran a fake college solely for the purpose of booting people trying to do nothing more than continue their education and satisfy the requirements of their student visas.
A court case currently being reviewed by the Eleventh Circuit Appeals Court appears to show ICE engaging in retaliation against protected speech in order to remove (check reports) a man who has lived in this country illegally, but definitely gainfully, for nearly two decades. Joel Rose has this report for NPR:
Activist Claudio Rojas says he was deported to his homeland, Argentina, for appearing in a film that criticized U.S. immigration authorities.
Rojas is one of the stars of The Infiltrators. He was invited to introduce the movie at the Miami Film Festival in 2019. Instead, Rojas was detained at a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs and Enforcement.
A few weeks later, he was deported.
Here’s a description of the film — one based partially on fact — via the Sundance Institute. The film took home two Sundance Film Festival awards at the 2019 ceremony.
Without warning, Claudio Rojas is detained by ICE officials outside his Florida home. He is transferred to the Broward Transitional Center, a detention facility used as a holding space for imminent deportations. Terrified of never seeing him again, Claudio’s family contacts the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), a group of activist Dreamers known for stopping deportations. Believing that no one is free as long as one is in detention, NIYA enlists Marco Saavedra to self-deport with the hopes of gaining access to the detention center and impeding Claudio’s expulsion. Once inside, Marco discovers a complex for-profit institution housing hundreds of multinational immigrants, all imprisoned without trial.
In real life — like in the film — Rojas was released and headed back to his family. He was one of the lucky ones. The for-profit detention facility (along with its ICE overseers) did everything it could to keep detainees away from their legal representation prior to their almost inevitable expulsion from the country.
Rojas’ appearance in this film appears to have provoked ICE into removing him from the United States, sending him far away from the family he raised here. Need a second opinion on the optics of this ICE maneuver? Here’s the opening of Matt Fagerholm’s review of the film for Roger Ebert’s site.
A month after Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera’s “The Infiltrators” garnered two prizes at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, one of its subjects, immigrant rights activist Claudio Rojas, was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during what was supposed to be a routine appointment. His subsequent deportation to Argentina, severing him from his family in the states, appears to have been a clear retaliation for Rojas’ attempts chronicled in this documentary to undermine Florida’s Broward Transitional Center, a for-profit institution that specializes in detaining immigrants without a trial or court-appointed lawyer.
Rojas challenged his removal, citing its retaliatory aspects. The district court refused to consider his request, considering everything about it moot because ICE had already sent him back to Argentina. Since he was here illegally, the court said ICE had the legal justification to kick him out, even though it had never pulled the trigger on this option until after he appeared in a film critical of ICE and its detention facilities.
What he’s heard from one of three-judge panel handling his case is promising.
[T]he Supreme Court’s ruling in the AADC case left the door open for a future deportation case that is so “outrageous,” as Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, that it would cross the line.
And appeals court Judge Robin Rosenbaum asked during the hearing whether the Rojas case fits that description.
“There’s possibly an outrageous First Amendment scenario where it could be a problem,” Rosenbaum said. “It seems to me the situation couldn’t be much more outrageous than what we have here.”
While challenging removals is less likely to end in a government loss than cases involving qualified immunity, there’s still hope that this decision — and ICE’s apparently retaliatory actions — will result in Rojas having his removal reversed.
But it’s a very slim chance. That decision does indeed say courts may be able to find an “outrageous” scenario that they can exercise jurisdiction over.
To resolve the present controversy, we need not rule out the possibility of a rare case in which the alleged basis of discrimination is so outrageous that the foregoing considerations can be overcome.
However, the rest of the concluding paragraph says this:
Whether or not there be such exceptions, the general rule certainly applies here. When an alien’s continuing presence in this country is in violation of the immigration laws, the Government does not offend the Constitution by deporting him for the additional reason that it believes him to be a member of an organization that supports terrorist activity.
It’s a long shot but it’s worth taking. If nothing else, further courtroom examination of ICE’s activities is likely to expose its selective enforcement of immigration laws — something it did plenty of under Trump, targeting the easiest-to-remove persons rather than the “worst of the worst” one of our worst presidents claimed immigration officers would prioritize.