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November 16, 2020

The ACLU Represents Bello, Arrested by ICE After Reading a Poem Critical of the Agency

The First Amendment case of college student and immigration activist Jose Bello — who was arrested by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shortly after reciting a poem critical of the agency — will be argued Tuesday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Bello read his poem, “Dear America,” last year at a meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors. Less than 36 hours later he was arrested at his home by ICE agents, with one of the agents telling Bello, “We know who you are and what you’re about.” Bello, who was brought to this country when he was three, was imprisoned at the Mesa Verde Detention Center on an exorbitant, ICE-imposed bond of $50,000.

A lawsuit filed on Bello’s behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California was rejected in federal district court, even though the judge noted that the timing of the arrest “is highly suggestive of retaliatory intent.” Her ruling in the case was based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that police officers cannot be sued for arresting a person in retaliation of speech unless there was no “probable cause.” The ACLU SoCal will argue that decision does not apply to Bello’s case.

The appeal filing can be read at:

WHAT: A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit hearing of the case of Jose Bello, arrested last year by ICE after reciting a poem critical of the agency.

WHEN: The hearing, which will be conducted virtually from San Francisco, will be on Tuesday, November 17. The court session begins at 1 p.m. (PT). The exact time this case will be heard is not known — it’s fourth on the court’s calendar for the session.

LINK: The court session can be viewed at: