Jose Bellow released from ICE custody (copy)

In this file photo, Jose Bello hugs his attorney, Win Eaton, after being released from federal custody in August 2018.

Did the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency violate the First Amendment rights of a Bakersfield College student when they arrested him 36 hours after he read a poem against the agency in a public forum?

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California is alleging just that in a court order filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of the student, 22-year-old Jose Bello.

Bello made headlines in 2018 after ICE arrested him and his brother, Oscar Bello-Reyes, and claimed both were members of a local street gang with criminal convictions for violent offenses.

Some at BC rallied behind Bello, who denied being a part of a gang. He was eventually released from ICE custody after raising $10,000 bail with community help.

But in mid-May, ICE arrested Bello again less than two days after he appeared at a TRUTH Act forum held by the Kern County Board of Supervisors, in which he read a poem titled, “Dear America.”

“I’m here to let you know, we want to feel safe, whether we’re Brown, Asian, or Black,” he said at the meeting, which provided an opportunity for the public to view details of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office’s interactions with ICE. “We don’t want your jobs. We don’t want your money. We’re here to work hard, pay taxes, and study.”

The ACLU says that less than 36 hours later, Bello was in ICE custody after agents came to his Bakersfield home at 6:30 a.m. for the arrest.

“The close succession of these two events strongly indicates that ICE acted in retaliation against Mr. Bello for his speech expressing views against the agency’s actions,” the ACLU wrote in court documents. “If left unaddressed, ICE’s actions will chill immigrant speakers from sharing criticisms of the agency at the very same time that it's escalating aggression and increasing use of detention are at the center of public debate.”

An ICE spokesperson declined to comment on the allegations and legal actions taken by the ACLU.

Bello is being held at Mesa Verde in Bakersfield on $50,000 bail as his immigration case makes its way through the court system, the ACLU said in a news release.

The ACLU has filed a writ of habeus corpus, which disputes the legal grounds on which Bello is being detained.

A hearing in San Francisco has been scheduled for Wednesday, and Bello is expected to appear via teleconference.

“Our client is a beloved, young activist with many allies and supporters,” ACLU policy advocate Rosa Lopez said in the release. “His poem spoke out against the administration’s cruel and inhumane immigration policies, and he is being persecuted for it.”

After Bello’s first arrest, ICE said Bello and his brother were granted voluntary departure to Mexico after an undisclosed incident. However, after returning to Mexico, ICE said the brothers re-entered the U.S. illegally.

In late January of this year, Bello was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to three years probation.

Aside from that instance, the ACLU said in court documents Bello had conducted himself responsibly and thrived since his release in August.

During his arrest in May, the ACLU alleges an ICE officer told Bello, “We know who you are and what you’re all about.”

The ACLU says Bello was placed in a holding cell in Bakersfield until approximately 3 p.m. with his hands handcuffed behind his back.

Court documents say the handcuffs cut into Bello’s wrists and ICE officers ignored Bello’s pleas to remove the restraints. He also pleaded to use the restroom, the ACLU said.

“Eventually, he had no choice but to wet himself,” court documents say.

He remained in soiled clothing for hours, according to the ACLU, which stated it was a dehumanizing experience obviously meant to humiliate Bello.

The ACLU also alleged ICE violated Bello’s right to due process by failing to consider Bello’s financial circumstances before setting the bond amount.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

(43) comments

Stating the obvious

Wow. Bello is quite the bigot. He says, "we all want to feel safe whether we're brown, black, or Asian." Gues what you little bigot? White people (all people) want to feel safe. That one statements from Bello really shows what a racist he is.


Your name is fitting as you stated the obvious. Lol!! Is Asian a skin color now? Poor little Bello needs all the dictation he can get in Mexico because it’s obvious his education here hasn’t served him well.


Last I checked white people weren’t being killed and harassed and discriminated against because of the color of their skin.


Do you live in a cave? They are targeted all the time. The media doesn't report those stories. You're targetting them right now. Why do you seem to hate them so much?


Targeted by who? The police? Neo nazi marchers? What actual cases are you speaking on? I don’t hate “them” I am actually Caucasian. What did I say exactly that was hateful? This young man is being attacked by racists in this comment section. Are you denying their is a race problem in this country? SMH


Vladimir Putin is the smartest, riches and most powerful man in the world. He knew exactly what he was doing when he manipulated the election of the most dishonest, immoral, unethical, habitual liar, and racist America has ever seen. He succeeded in his intent to divide and conquer his vowed enemy as some of the above posts indicate. Birds of a feather always flock together.


Really? I didn’t know Vlad and Obama were that close? I learn something new everyday.




Illegal is illegal. He was allowed to voluntarily deport himself yet he violated the law again by re-entering the US. I don’t care if they arrested him sitting on the toilet or for ANY reason at any time. He is an illegal alien plain and simple! You liberal idiots are ruining our country and this state just to get votes! Send him the wall!!!!




What ICE and its agents seem to have forgotten is these are human beings. The inhumane treatment, including that reported here, we're reading about is inexcusable.

As for the president? Defenders offended at what his detractors are saying about him, keep in mind they aren't making anything up. He behaves and speaks abominably.

As such he's going to be called on it. Trumpites may avert their eyes or, even hold their noses, but Trump, by his actions and speech, has openly and richly earned the enmity he receives from decent and moral people.


No Stephen, they haven’t forgot they’re dealing with human beings. They’re doing their freaking job!


Holding someone in handcuffs until it’s cutting into their skin? Not allowing someone to use the restroom? That is a form of torture and is not humane .


Stephen it’s boo hoo articles like this trying to sugarcoat the truth. Illegal aliens have run amok. Trying to put a “they’re hard workers poor baby” spin on it does nothing to dissuade the truth.


Run amok? How exactly are you affected by illegals ? Cheaper food prices in the market? Nice mowed lawn? Clean house? Even you Racist in chief has illegals working for him.


Have you visited the East side lately, dear? You are so oblique it's barely worth responding. No one can be this blind. It's too late for you white hater.


Meeshka I live on the east side my dear . Nice blanket statements with no basis in actual facts , try watching something else besides you state news channel . Blind to what exactly ? You have nothing real to say Meeshka .


You don't live on the East side.


The strangest thing about Trump supporters is their refusal to admit they're racist, among other anti-people beliefs. I mean, if you support a racist, brag about supporting that racist, and say racist things yourself, than why not admit you are a racist?!! I think it's called cowardice and bullying.


Yes thank Obama for the converted racicist.

Patricia Edna

Supporting the law is racist? I think you’re the strange thing.


Patricia it is the inhumane way the law is being applied. Hello pull your head out of the sand.


True JR! I have yet to meet a Trumper who is not racist , misogynist , or homophobe in some way.


Common sense: If you’re in America illegally, best not to advertise it. How can you go to college and not know that? Plus, the poem was not very good.


Is this young man a dreamer? The courts are still undecided about what to do about children brought over by their parents. So how are they applying a law that’s not even decided on yet?


Ignorance is bliss! If you support this illegal maybe you should pay my taxes to support this tax draining criminal.


Most illegals are active participants in the American economy . You’re worried about feeding hungry humans with your tax money but are cool with wealthy corporations paying zero dollars in taxes to support our tax funded programs while they are grossing billions and billions of dollars off the American people? Educate yourself.


Oh my goodness the poor poor grown man hurt by cuffs. That mean ole ICE. Good thing there's ACLU to blow his nose and dry his tears. Dude is an adult who chose to come here illegally. Says he wants to feel safe? Guess what, so do millions of legal citizens who don't feel safe when every yahoo can enter our unprotected border. This emotionally manipulative pandering put forth by ACLU is despicable. Really, ICE retaliated because of a poem? Were they in the audience that day? Does anyone realize how stupid this sounds? I know the Californian is also trying to jerk our worn out heart strings but guess readers and legal citizens are adults too, just like this delicate boy man illegal alien.


I wonder if the Native Americans complained about the mass migration of illegal aliens crossing their borders?


FYI most crimes particular mass shootings are done by legal citizens!

Susan S

I’m proud to support the ACLU.


Illegally entered not once, but twice!

Susan S

He did?


Yes, Susan, he did. You should read the article.


Trump is a cancer on this country! Anyone who voted for him as a racist!

Jerry Todd

You know this for sure? How do you define a racist? Donald Trump is the Constitutionally elected President of the United States. He's brought employment up for all races as no President in History. Why Academia and of course, the ACLU, which opposes most common sense laws, are spreading such bitterness is beyond me. ICE doesn't have the time or resources to harass innocent migrants, most of whom I hope become Constitution and God-loving citizens. Try to take a deep breath and look at both sides of this issue. Then look up the Cloward-Piven Strategy that is being used against us at the border. Then tell me what you really think. Vaya con Dios!


So I guess Jerry Todd supports children dying in cages alone without their parents. Children lost in the system and being adopted out illegally. This is a disgusting gross violation of human rights and human dignity. Yes if you support this Racist-in-chief and his disgusting policies you are a racist and a dispicable human being as well.


Donald Trump wipes himself with the constitution almost daily.


😂😂😂😂! A racist because we choose to support our laws and constitution? Your the racist!


No a racist because you think it’s cool to inflict humane treatment on other humans because they have darker skin than you.


Correction inhumane


Go Trump!!!!


“Anyone who voted for him as a racist!”???? I know you were trying to say something, I just can’t figure out what it is.

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