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In 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Florida raided the home of Adolfo Garcia and Julio Diaz, reportedly in search of human traffickers. Although no one in the home was involved in trafficking, the agents stormed the house and violently arrested Garcia, Diaz and several others for civil immigration violations. ICE agents punched and kicked the young men, who were 17 at the time and were not resisting arrest. They and several others arrived at the detention facility so bruised and bloodied that the facility’s administrator called for an investigation. Unfortunately, the investigation went nowhere, despite the fact that one of the ICE supervisors involved falsified his story.
Despite receiving U-visa certifications from the Department of Justice due to the incident, Adolfo Garcia and Julio Diaz were ultimately denied U-visas and stays of removal, and were ordered to leave the U.S. this Friday, May 18.
On a press call today, community leaders who responded to the 2008 raid, attorneys for the victims, and national leaders discussed this troubling case and called on the government to do the right thing and cancel their deportations.
“Julio and Adolfo had nothing to do with the criminal enterprise that was targeted and fully cooperated in the investigation of ICE’s abuse of power during the raid on their home,” said Jonathan Fried, Executive Director of We Count! in Homestead, Florida.
“We want ICE to be held accountable for its abuses against immigrants during Operation RES-Q. But in the absence of accountability, the very least that ICE could do in this case to bring a modicum of justice would be to exercise its discretion and allow these two young men to remain in the United States, ” he added.
Earlier this week, a formal complaint was filed with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties requesting a new investigation into the raid. But if the government succeeds in deporting these young men on Friday, it will remove the most critical evidence of its wrongdoing and thwart any real hope of an investigation and accountability.
Romy Lerner, Supervising Attorney for the Americans for Immigrant Justice, said the government was being hasty in removing its sources of evidence:
We cannot understand why ICE so adamantly refuses to use prosecutorial discretion in Adolfo and Julio’s case and grant them at least a one-year stay of removal. At this point we can only conclude that ICE is trying to cover up their own agents’ misconduct and their own failure to hold the agents accountable.
Guidelines designed to protect victims and witnesses of crime like Garcia and Diaz were spelled out in a memo distributed by ICE director John Morton, but the memo received little notice from both the media and the agency itself.
According to Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center:
These young men have bravely shed light on what happens when rogue agents feel they can act with impunity. Now, they are being deported, in spite of their courageousness. If the administration’s policy on prosecutorial discretion means anything, these two individuals should be allowed to remain in the U.S. Otherwise, their deportation will be seen as retaliatory by a local ICE agency run amok. These two young men represent the poster children of who should be considered a low priority for deportation.
To this day, none of the officers involved in the incident have been held accountable for their actions, and by continuing to push for Adolfo and Julio’s deportation, ICE is making a clear attempt to sweep their internal problems under the rug.
Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director, America’s Voice Education Fund:
When ICE first announced their prosecutorial discretion policy, we applauded it as an enlightened approach. The stated goal was to use limited resources to target high priority individuals – including serious criminals, drug traffickers, human traffickers, etc. But nearly a year later, we are extremely disappointed in how the policy has been implemented. And as the case of Adolfo and Julio suggests, ICE seems to think that it’s okay to have agents invade homes, use abusive tactics and deport the victims of this abuse rather than live up to the policy designed to protect people in this situation.