Immigration Police

Immigrants Arrested on Mistaken Charges at Phoenix Protests Face Deportation

Four undocumented people were turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement after being arrested at protests condemning the murder of George Floyd in Phoenix, Arizona. The Phoenix Police Department arrested all four immigrants the night of Saturday, May 30. They were held overnight in a Maricopa County jail before being transferred to ICE custody.

One of the arrestees, Jesus Manuel Orona Prieto, was not involved with the protests. According to his girlfriend Corina Paez, who was also arrested, the couple was pulled over driving home from a dinner date in downtown Phoenix. Police served him felony rioting charges. Due to his immigration status, Orona Prieto is facing imminent removal proceedings and will likely be deported to his home state of Chihuahua, Mexico.

“[Orona Prieto] wasn’t even at the protest, but what was wrong with him? His skin was brown, and because his skin was brown and he was in the area where a protest was happening, he was pulled over, pulled out of his car and given felony charges,” said Ybarra Maldonado, the attorney representing those arrested at Saturday’s protest.

The other three arrestees, Roberto Cortes, Johan Montes Cuevas, and Máxima Guerrero have protected immigration status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The new arrests could cause them to lose their DACA status and lead to their deportation.

Cortes, Cuevas, Guerro, and Orona Prieto were among 114 people arrested by Phoenix police in connection to the Saturday protests. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona called the arrests a violation of “civil rights en masse.” Maricopa County Superior Court has since ordered the release of many arrestees after finding they were detained without probable cause.

Phoenix police have since lowered the charges against the four undocumented arrestees from a felony to a misdemeanor for unlawful assembly after admitting that they were all labeled with the wrong charges while being booked.

The arrests are still garnered the attention of ICE agents and will compromise their immigration status. Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone allows immigration agents to screen every person arrested and booked in county jails. As such, ICE agents often wait for undocumented people outside jails to detain them as soon as they are released from police custody, as was the case with Cortes, Cuevas, and Guerro.

Guerro, who is a community organizer with the Puente Human Rights Movement, was released from ICE custody Monday morning after a national social media campaign. The two other dreamers were also released Monday. All three will face deportation if the charges from Phoenix Police are not dropped.

Orona Prieto is still awaiting his removal hearing. He is being detained at the Florence Correctional Center, a private prison that also houses immigrant detainees. The facility currently has a COVID-19 outbreak with five active cases and 15 confirmed cases of prisoners and staff.

Sources: The Intercept 7/8/2020; AZ Central 7/2/2020; AZ Mirror 7/1/2020

Support eh ERA banner