Two migrant workers arrested by immigration officers in Homewood last month were released on bond Wednesday following fund-raising and petition drives by Adelante Alabama Worker Center.
Marcos Baltazar, a member of the Adelante board of directors, and his son, Juan, 18, spent the month in detention facilities at the Etowah County Jail in Gadsden and in Jena, La.
Both facilities have been cited by human rights groups for their inhumane treatment of detainees, said Reysha Swanson of Adelante, a non-profit organization based in Hoover that unites migrant workers and their families. Read more.
Read BirminghamWatch’s coverage on the Etowah Detention Center and immigration:
Immigration Detention Prolonged in Alabama’s ‘Black Hole’ (Associated Press)
Where Cities Help Detain Immigrants (CityLab)
Awot Negash’s troubles with U.S. immigration officials began in 2001 and spiraled two years ago when Immigration and Enforcement officials knocked on his suburban Washington, D.C., home.
He eventually wound up in a controversial immigrant detention center in Gadsden.
He has been arrested and sent to two centers where immigration officials hold immigrants. He describes the Etowah center in Gadsden as inefficient, unorganized, chaotic and dysfunctional.
Immigration actions in Alabama and Mississippi recently underscore the point: The campaign against undocumented residents is nationwide, not just on the southern U.S. border.
That’s no surprise to at least one group in Birmingham – the lawyers who specialize in immigration disputes and have been handling growing caseloads.
Local immigration attorneys said that where once individuals would have been released on bond, now they are being sent to detainment centers until their court dates, and it could take months or sometimes years for court dates to be scheduled. Read more.
After immigration officers detained Marcos Baltazar and his son, Juan, in Homewood one morning last week, the two men were in the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden by nightfall.
Their destination spotlights the Etowah center, a controversial facility adjoining the county jail in Gadsden where federal authorities detain immigrants.
The center has drawn critics’ protests and attempts to close it for years, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office itself tried to close the facility in 2010. That effort hit a maelstrom of resistance from local political officials and their supporters in Congress.
In the case of Baltazar and his son, Adelante Alabama the next day protested outside Etowah center against their arrests. Marcos Baltazar is a member of the board of directors of Adelante Alabama, a human rights group based in Hoover that has been active in obtaining the release of immigrant detainees.
Baltazar entered this country from Guatemala three years ago. Though undocumented, he was allowed to stay in the country with his son, who was a minor at the time, if he periodically checked in with ICE, according to Adelante Alabama. His son has turned 18, so he is no longer considered a minor by ICE.
The two were detained last week when they went to the ICE office in Homewood for a routine check-in, a provision of their being allowed to stay in the country, according to ICE spokesman Bryan Cox. Read more.
Read more on the detention center and immigration:
Updated — Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in Homewood today detained a board member of Adelante Alabama Worker Center, a human rights group based in Hoover that has been active in obtaining the release of immigrant detainees.
Marcos Baltazar and his son, who’s name was not disclosed, were detained, said Resha Swanson, Adelante policy and communications coordinator.
The two, who are immigrants, were making a routine check-in with ICE at the time of their arrest. Read more.
Thousands of unaccompanied minors remain detained a week out from the deadline for the Trump administration to reunite children with their parents.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement says 453 children have been resettled in Alabama this year through April. It isn’t known how many since then. Children released from detention are placed into foster care shelters or with relatives who are approved as sponsors.
The problem is, many relatives are afraid to come forward to take in these children. That’s because they’re required to disclose their immigration status to private resettlement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security.
Isabel Rubio, director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, says relatives are still worried. “People are concerned that if their information is sent to the Department of Homeland Security that they are at higher risk for deportation because now immigration knows exactly who they are and where they live.”
Read more coverage on immigration:
Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Find Foster Homes in Alabama
Some Immigrant Children Being Reunited With Families
Separating Immigrant Families Violates Country’s ‘Belief of Faith and Family,” Jones Says
Amid Immigration Controversy, More Hispanic Students Arrive in Alabama Classrooms
Federal officials have placed 2,729 unaccompanied immigrant children in Alabama since 2015, with most finding foster homes in Jefferson, Marshall, Morgan and Tuscaloosa counties.
Of those, 453 found foster homes in Alabama this year through April, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. Information on how many children have been settled in the state since April – including during the recent separation of families as part of a zero-tolerance policy – is not yet available.
In fact, little information is publicly known about the children after they are placed. Read more.
Sixteen unaccompanied Latino children separated from their families as part of the border patrol’s zero tolerance policy were scheduled to be reunited with their parents Sunday.
The children will join 522 other children who have been reunited with their families, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. The 16 were scheduled to be reunited Friday, but weather affected travel, and officials said Saturday night that the children were to be reunited with their families “within the next 24 hours.”
There remain “a small number of children who were separated for reasons other than zero tolerance that will remain separated,” according to the press release from Homeland Security. Read more.
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones said in a press conference Thursday that he strongly opposed the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy on people illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico that resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents and held in detention centers.
“I believe that separating families is completely contrary to our country’s deeply held belief of faith and family,” Jones said.
Jones’ comments come during a week of controversy over the immigration policy. About 2,300 children have been separated from their parents at the Mexican border since May. About 500 of those children have been reunited with their parents, the Associated Press reported Friday. Read more.