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.

Bakersfield College student Jose Bello will remain in custody after a federal judge denied a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California on Tuesday.

However, the judge called the actions of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who arrested Bello hours after he read a poem against the agency at a public forum, “highly suggestive of retaliatory intent.”

The ACLU had filed a court order on Bello’s behalf alleging his First Amendment rights had been violated by the arrest, and that a $50,000 bail had been set unreasonably high.

A drunken driving charge played a crucial role in the judge’s ruling, effectively nullifying the ACLU’s arguments.

Bello pleaded no contest to a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol in January and was sentenced to three years' probation. The judge said that the ACLU had not demonstrated that ICE would not have arrested Bello even if he had not read his poem.

“ICE had an objectively reasonable legal justification to re-arrest (Bello),” Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim wrote in the order denying the ACLU’s motion.

Kim concurred with the ACLU that the timing of the arrest was suspicious, and the ACLU said the agency's actions could have implications beyond Bello’s case.

“ICE’s chilling claim is that it may retaliate against political speakers like Jose Bello whenever it can point to an additional reason to justify its actions,” said ACLU staff attorney Jordan Wells. “If that were the law, ICE would have a license to punish its critics. Contrary to ICE’s view, the First Amendment prohibits such blatant censorship.”

The ACLU plans to appeal the judge’s decision.

ICE declined to comment.

The alleged violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech, occurred after Bello read a poem titled “Dear America” at a forum on ICE’s involvement with local law enforcement held at the chambers of the Kern County Board of Supervisors in May.

“Y’all can try to justify your actions, try to make excuses,” Bello said at the forum, according to a transcript of the poem. “The bottom line is that, at the end, the people always triumph and the government loses.”

Thirty-six hours after Bello read the poem, ICE agents appeared at his home at 6:30 a.m. to make an arrest.

It was Bello’s second time being taken into ICE custody.

In May 2018, ICE arrested Bello and his brother, Oscar Bello-Reyes, claiming both were members of a local gang with criminal convictions for violent offenses that had occurred while they were juveniles.

Through his lawyer at the time, Bello denied the allegations, saying ICE had confused him for somebody else with the same name.

Some at BC rallied to Bello’s aid, raising $10,000 for his bond. Bello was released on bail in August and continued studying at the community college.

His friends say he was a semester away from graduating when he was re-arrested.

According to court documents, Bello entered the U.S. in 2000, when he was 3 years old. He is now 22, and works as a full-time farmworker along with his studies at BC, the documents say.

He has a 1-year-old son who is an American citizen.

ICE provided a “long list” of juvenile infractions committed by Bello, the judge wrote in her order. However, Bello’s juvenile record was sealed in June 2018.

Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.

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(22) comments

Masked 2020

OK....send him to A.A...not was poetry 4godsakes...According to court documents, Bello entered the U.S. in 2000, when he was 3 years old. He is now 22, and works as a full-time farmworker along with his studies at BC, the documents say. He has a 1-year-old son who is an American citizen.


He is a DACA , but under this extremely racist and prejudiced president they are deporting DACA and sending them to countries most of have never even been to. Under Obama he left them alone unless violent crimes were committed.


In an Authoritarian State, if you poke the Bear, you get attacked. Guess the polite word is retaliatory.


I have to actually agree . Was there a reason why he didn’t apply? The rules are if you commit crime you are deported? Regardless ICE are acting like punks. Their Facebook page proves that. How many times does ICE have to be reprimanded by federal judges? This racist joke of a president just adds fuel to the fire of ugly racist xenophobic people. Chump is nothing but a demagogue using small minded people to stay in power.


Bello should have applied for legal residency as soon as possible. I applaud ICE for doing its job. Bello drove drunk. We have too many drunk drivers on California roads. The ACLU--the American Criminal Lovers Union? I don't support its work.


I concur with you Walliford. And guess what? That does not make us racist, does not make us hateful, does not make us anti-immigrant.


As a legal immigrant I can definitely say I'm tired of watching these takers


Yet you are ok with billion dollar corporations “taking” from the American people by not paying their fair share in taxes? Hmm


And this illegal alien has no first ammendment rights


He has human rights. Or should we just disregard them under this racist disgusting President and his racist party


Kathy the Supreme Court has consistently agreed that even illegal aliens have constitutional rights


@Kathy Apparently you never bothered to read the first three words of the US Constitution. I believe it reads, "We the people..."


But supporting a racist President does . What you don’t condemn you condone.


He's not racist. He's doing exactly what Obama said he'd do but never did


@JimmyDude Of course it makes you racist, hateful, and anti-immigrant when you agree with another apathetic racist who advocates ICE abusing its power (as usual) over a drunken driving charge and refers to the ACLU as an organization who loves and protects criminals. The stunning level of ignorance regarding the mission of the ACLU you and Walliford reflect is indicative of how too many people mistake white nationalism for patriotism. I realize these concepts are a distinction without a difference for proud Americans like you and Walliford. I'm sure I've seen you and Walliford around town sporting your Confederate flag from your lifted pick-up.


Rant against racists while being a racist, that always helps. But it is so indicative of the times we are in. All 3 of you need to stop being part of the problem.


Steelerman, stereotype much? Hate much? You just displayed more hatred and intolerance for me over a two sentence reply to a comment I made than I did (or would) for the law breaking illegal immigrant with a 'long list' of offenses that the article is referring to. You're the hater here.


@Veritas I knew my remarks would bring out some of Bakersfield's finest minds, making ridiculous accusation about my so-called "racist" rant. Please enlighten me in where exactly I made one racist statement? I did not think so. Before you open your mouth, you might want to get your facts straight. Your brief, but inaccurate comments, reflect that you obviously do not know what you are talking about.


Obviously you can’t even understand what you wrote. You said they were driving around town sporting a Confederate flag from your lifted pick-up. You don’t know them or their race, so you pulled out one of the old “redneck” insults. Now consider yourself enlightened. Obviously my facts were straight, whereas yours were not. You labeled Wallingford and JimmyDude racist, unequivocally. Enlighten us all of exactly what racist statement either of them made. You can’t, although I am sure you’ll try to spin doctor something. And just a little piece of advice, stay in your lane cause you are not in my league. Have a nice day!




Do you think that all drunk drivers should be punished? What about Jon giumarra killing a woman drunk , he should have went straight to jail he didn’t even get a tap on the wrist. Driving around town drunk right now getting wasted at BCC . Do you care about that? Or do you only care when it’s a brown skin person driving drunk?


So you’re saying that on the one hand, the courts are corrupt for giving Guimarra a pass, but on the other hand, the Supreme Court gave illegal immigrants constitutional rights. So should we defer to corrupt courts or not? Should the courts add a provision to Miranda that allows you to commit crimes as long as you “protest” the law afterwards because an arrest will be retaliatory? Will this right be extended to white people too or will it only be extended to brown people because Rogard Blumpf is a big meanie rayciss?

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