Bakersfield College students didn't hesitate to speak up when word spread that federal immigration agents had detained a fellow student. Less than 24 hours after ICE detained Jose Bello, students, faculty members and Bakersfield residents mobilized to voice their thoughts to the public.
Bello, a 21-year-old business administration student is currently being detained at the Mesa Verde Detention Facility.
However, ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said in a statement that Bello and his brother, Oscar Bello-Reyes, were both detained and confirmed to be members of a local street gang.
Student government president James Tompkins said Bello was a high achieving academic student studying pre law so he could give back to his family and community. A former professor, Rosa Garza, said "he was a nice student, always ready to learn and had a good attitude."
Both brothers have criminal convictions for violent offenses harming others, Rocha said. The brothers were granted voluntary departure to Mexico, after ICE contacted them in a previous incident. But after returning to Mexico, they re-entered the U.S. illegally, Rocha said.
Their immigration proceedings are ongoing, the release said.
None of Bello's friends or family were in attendance in the crowd of nearly 50. BC professor Olivia Garcia said Bello's mother was afraid to come or speak about the detainment of her son.
Win Eaton, a Bakersfield immigration attorney, said his firm may represent Bello in his case. Eaton said Bello had no adult criminal record.
It's unclear who will represent Oscar.
According to BC spokeswoman Monika Scott there are hundreds of undocumented immigrants at the college.
"Bakersfield College is committed to providing a safe environment so all students, including the approximately 800 undocumented students at BC, can attain the degrees, certificates, and workplace skills necessary to engage and contribute positively to their communities," Scott said in a statement Wednesday morning.
Those rallying at BC didn't need to know Bello personally to hold up signs in protest, and not knowing the reason of his detainment still struck a chord among fellow students because Bello, rumored to be a 4.0-grade-point student, fit the description of a DACA recipient.
Speakers had previously thought that Bello had been detained because an unmarked vehicle pulled him over for speeding.
The former BC Latinos Unidos Por Educacion (LUPE) president Tanya Bernal spoke about the fear of ICE while trying to obtain a degree.
"Dreamers you are not alone here," Bernal said. "As a college student we should be worried about achieving a 4.0."
Bello's arrest is the latest incident involving ICE agents and Kern County that's ruffled feathers in some quarters and strengthened support in others regarding the government's targeting of undocumented residents.
On March 13, Santos Hilario Garcia and Marcelina Profecto Garcia died in a crash after being stopped by ICE agents in Delano. They fled the area after being pulled over, then crashed on West Cecil Avenue.
No charges were brought against the ICE agents in that case after the District Attorney's office determined the traffic stop had nothing to do with the fatal crash. Instead, the office determined, the crash was caused by reckless driving and a sharp turn that led the Garcia vehicle to overturn.