Court Catches ICE In A Lie As It Tries To Vanish A Mexican Journalist And Immigration Policy Critic

from the FOIA-to-the-rescue dept

A lot of talk about “bad hombres” and former “shithole” denizens raping, pillaging, and terrorizing their way through our country has led to a lot of beefed-up immigration enforcement. ICE, once just a post-9/11 also-ran relegated to counterfeit panty raids and seizing sites the RIAA didn’t like, is now front and center. It is the face of immigration enforcement and it’s the agency that’s decided a handful of executive orders outweigh the Constitutional rights we extend to asylum seekers and other entrants into this country.

Lots of rights go violated in the case of Mexican journalist Emilio Gutierrez-Soto. Gutierrez entered the country with his son, Oscar, in June 2008. He made credible claims his life would be in danger if he was returned to Mexico, stating that his house had already been raided at least once by Mexican military police, presumably in retaliation for his reporting. He was detained for seven months and separated from his son while asylum proceedings continued. After being released, he reunited with his son and other members of his family.

The proceedings dragged on. Gutierrez made a living operating a food truck while nothing much got adjudicated. He also criticized the US’s immigration policies and procedures as being unnecessarily punitive, especially considering the country’s history of welcoming immigrants. He noted the extremely odd handling of asylum cases like his, where people seeking refuge from persecution are tossed into a jail or detainment center for months or years while the courts slowly make their way through their case backlog.

Gutierrez didn’t receive a final decision on his asylum request for almost a decade. That’s when things started going very badly.

In July 2017, immigration judge Robert Hough finally ruled on his nine-year-old asylum claim. Hough ruled that Gutiérrez did not present sufficient evidence to prove that he was targeted for his journalistic work or that his life would be in danger if he returned to Mexico.

This meant Gutierrez would be sent back to Mexico despite building a life for nine years without incident on this side of the border. He could still appeal the decision but he would have to wait for ICE to make its own call on deportation. The bureaucracy requires a final determination from ICE before an asylum seeker can seek an emergency stay from the Bureau of Immigration Affairs. Before meeting with ICE to get its final decision, Gutierrez issued his own parting shot.

On October 4, 2017, Gutiérrez accepted the National Press Club’s prestigious John Aubuchon award on behalf of all Mexican journalists. During his acceptance speech at the club’s black-tie awards gala in Washington, D.C., Gutiérrez accused the U.S. government of hypocrisy for advocating for human rights abroad while denying them at home. Gutiérrez was particularly critical of the United States’ asylum policies.

“Those who seek political asylum in countries like the U.S. encounter the decisions of immigration authorities that barter away international laws,” he said.

ICE told Gutierrez and his legal rep it would consult with the BIA before making a decision. It never did this. In fact, it tossed him and his son into a vehicle and began driving them toward the border within moments of denying a stay to Gutierrez. Gutierrez had the right to stay in the country until the BIA made a final determination but ICE ignored this. It also decided to lock the two asylum seekers up after the BIA issued its emergency stay.

Before Gutiérrez could be handed over to the Mexican government, the BIA called [attorney Eduardo] Beckett back with good news — Gutiérrez and Oscar had been granted an emergency stay of deportation. Beckett immediately called ICE and told them to bring Gutiérrez and Oscar back. The agency refused. The BIA’s emergency order might have prevented ICE from deporting Gutiérrez and his son, but it did not prevent the agency from detaining them.

ICE agents took Gutiérrez and Oscar to an immigration detention facility. They would remain in ICE detention for nearly eight months, and Gutiérrez’s food truck would be stolen while he was still detained.

This is where things get even more fucked up. On top of the additional detention, FOIA’ed emails showed ICE targeted Gutierrez for deportment even before his case had received a final ruling from the court and while it was supposed to be targeting the “worst of the worst” for immediate ejection. The presiding judge noted ICE’s lie in his ruling.

“Respondents [ICE] contend that they detained Petitioners [Gutierrez-Soto and his son] based on a warrant issued after the removal order issued by the immigration judge became final in August 2017,” Guaderrama wrote in a July 10 decision. “However, the emails between ICE officials undermine Respondents’ argument. The emails show that ICE officials were already targeting Mr. Gutierrez-Soto in February 2017. … This is significant because it is before the immigration judge issued the removal order in July 2017, which became final in August 2017.”

The judge also found this to be “sufficient evidence” Gutierrez was targeted for his comments about immigration policies and ICE. Rather than continue to fight this lawsuit after stacking the deck against itself by lying to the court, ICE agreed to release Gutierrez and his son.

Unfortunately, ICE may still get another chance to deport a critic. Unbelievably, Gutierrez’s asylum case still isn’t completely resolved. His appeal has been granted given the new evidence ICE targeted him for removal prior to a final judicial decision and quite possibly because they didn’t like his exercising his First Amendment rights. If the judge decides Gutierrez can’t prove he’ll be persecuted by Mexican authorities if he’s forced to return to Mexico, his asylum request will be denied. ICE may still get what it wants even after violating the asylum seeker’s rights multiple times over the last several years.

ICE is an inordinately powerful agency. It has been for years, but it’s now the right arm of an administration obsessed with rooting foreigners out and closing our borders. Its excesses will be excused with garbled talking points and MS-13 infographics. This single incident shows it’s willing to ignore federal courts when not lying to them in order to punish a critic. If this is what it does during a publicized case, there are likely hundreds of similar abuses taking place that will go undiscovered.

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Comments on “Court Catches ICE In A Lie As It Tries To Vanish A Mexican Journalist And Immigration Policy Critic”

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christenson says:

Anecdotes aren't statistical evidence, but....

I’ve also heard from at least one Mexican that to convert a permanent resident visa into citizenship basically involves getting a lawyer to force the government to follow the law….and this was well before Trump.

And if getting yourself targeted by *our* government isn’t evidence of the need for asylum, I don’t know what is.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Anecdotes aren't statistical evidence, but....

Immigration Court is also really fucked up. The ‘judges’ aren’t real judges, they’re employees of the DOJ and can be fired for not working fast enough.

Google the Jon Oliver segment on Immigration court. At one point he played the entirety of one of their hearings on a person’s case, which lasted for only a minute. And yet despite those sham court proceedings they still have a massive backup because obviously we need a lot more immigration courts and ‘judges’.

Oh and did I mention Immigration courts think it’s perfectly fine to have young children (I think as young as 3? I might be off on the number) represent themselves without a lawyer?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Anecdotes aren't statistical evidence, but....

And if getting yourself targeted by our government isn’t evidence of the need for asylum, I don’t know what is.

Exactly this.

> His appeal has been granted given the new evidence ICE targeted him for removal prior to a final judicial decision and quite possibly because they didn’t like his exercising his First Amendment rights. If the judge decides Gutierrez can’t prove he’ll be persecuted by Mexican authorities if he’s forced to return to Mexico, his asylum request will be denied.

ICE proved his case for him. If our supposedly free nation persecutes a journalist for his journalism then what is an oppressive government like Mexico expected to do?

Anonymous Coward says:


The Canadian government has been hit with a flood of such asylum requests over the past year. Unfortunately, anyone entering from the US will usually just be sent back across the border, especially if they’ve already got a pending asylum request in the US, as Canada has a bilateral agreement with the US regarding refugee and asylum status.

The flood of cases may change this however, as the US is quickly proving itself not to operate at the same level as Canada regarding handling of asylum requests.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m amused when people conflate secular with godless. I’m even more amused when people assume atheists must be bad because they don’t believe in some deity. Mind you I didn’t really grasp your comment intentions but it brought it to mind.

There’s plenty of examples of people doing great atrocities in the name of some god. And plenty of examples of atheists and other “lesser” religion followers being much better persons than their Catholic/Protestant/Muslim colleagues. Heck, just look at the US and all the religious moralism.

keithzg (profile) says:

Abolishing ICE isn't even enough

And to think, the Democratic establishment thinks Abolish ICE is too radical of a position to entertain as a policy position. Frankly, I think we should abolish the agency and lock up the now-former members of ICE in their old detention centers, and pass firm laws preventing any such agency from ever existing again. Merely abolishing the agency, that’s the centrist compromise.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fists fly as refugee crisis inflames Toronto...

From the moment a protester grabbed a counter-protester’s megaphone and hurled it into the fountain of the Markham Civic Centre, Saturday’s demonstration against illegal border crossings and their effect on suburban Toronto degenerated quickly into violence and anger.

Even Canadians have had enough of illegals forced on them by elites.

So you globalists who want to destroy countries with unlimited numbers of hostile foreigners are going to lose, at the very least — more likely to bring about true nationalism, so go right on with your nutty talk!

Will B. says:

Re: Re: For anyone who missed them:

“So you [jews] who want to destroy countries with unlimited numbers of [non-white people] are going to lose, at the very least — more likely to bring about [white supremacy], so go right on with your nutty talk!”

Now our specimen is, of course, quite wrong in all his assertions, but it is wise to recognize what the words of sputtering maniacs like this one actually mean – especially since it will allow you to recognize when calmer, more reasonable speakers use those same dog-whistles in contexts where they are easier to miss. Our specimen is doing us a service, really, by being horribly blatant about what his dog-whistles mean; we can use sputterers like this one to keep track of what new dogwhistles the neo-nazis are coming up with over time.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Unlimited Numbers of Hostile Foreigners

Given that our peerless leader is killing trade with China and Europe, unlimited numbers of hostile foreigners is exactly what we’re going to have.

Remember, China right now has a surplus seventy million males of marrying age who are about to get all MGTOW. China needs a war to thin its ranks (or build sexbots in a damn hurry), so right now is not a good time to be looking at them from across the aisle.

As for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, they’re the opposite of a hostile foreigner, rather someone desperate to be friendly to a new home. And they’ll contribute more to the economy than you will.

Anonymous Coward says:

So, let him stay nine years based on nothing but an assertion,

turns out to be UN-substantiable, and all he does is spit in our face and make trouble? — And we’re supposed to have sympathy for this hostile alien? We’re supposed to agree with this minion that he was treated unfairly?

BALONEY. Foreigners seeking asylum are effectively on parole, and if we don’t like (through our agents, usually but since you brought this to MY attention, then he’s clearly undesirable) their actions and attitude, we’ve EVERY right to throw ’em out.

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