- Josue Romero, 19, was taken into ICE custody this week after being charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession
The first round of immigration raids and "targeted enforcement" actions under President Donald Trump started this month, causing widespread alarm among immigrant communities and activists who see it as culmination of the anti-immigrant script that started on the campaign trail.
While U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials insist the operations are routine (and have called reports to the contrary "false, dangerous and irresponsible"), there's still the question of who, exactly, ICE is targeting for detention and deportation. And we keep getting signs those priorities could be shifting — like the case of Josue Romero, an undocumented 19-year-old from San Antonio taken into ICE custody this week after being charged with small-time pot possession.
Friends say Romero is an alumni of local arts education nonprofit SAY Sí, which posted this message about him on Facebook Thursday:
Yesterday one of our alumni, Josue Romero, was detained and arrested by Immigration (ICE). We are saddened and disappointed, but are working to help him in every way we can. We want to tell Josue’s story. Josue Romero moved to San Antonio from Honduras when he was 3 years old. He and his dad moved to our city to find work, to find a better life. Josue joined SAY Sí in 2009 as a middle school student after our executive director gave a presentation about the opportunity to join our artistic community. Josue was drawn to SAY Sí because of his creative interests (doodling and building with legos) and began to find his place at SAY Sí in our Visual Arts high school program. As a high school student he had the opportunity to mentor middle school students every week. One of the biggest changes we saw in Josue was his transformation into a leader and his developed interest in seeking higher education. With assistance from SAY Sí staff, Josue received the help he needed to submit college applications and apply for scholarships to attend college. He was awarded a scholarship that covered 75% of tuition to attend the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, and is currently in his second year there. We want you to know that the current policies of our administration are affecting lives you’re connected to - people in our community, our students, our families. These are not just things that you see on the news. Josue is a beloved member of the SAY Sí family and has been for 8 years. He has worked hard to build a life here. This is interrupting that life - a life full of promise and opportunity.Activists and lawyers working with Romero's family call him a "DACA student," a reference to the Obama-era deportation deferral program for young immigrants like him — meaning, under Obama's ICE, Romero likely wouldn't have been a priority for enforcement. One "prosecutorial discretion" memo sent out under the Obama Administration states that immigrants like Romero who have "not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, or multiple misdemeanor offenses" shouldn't be a priority for detention or removal.
But for some reason, Romero's now a priority, which could mean a couple of things. Maybe DACA recipients are now fair game as far as ICE is concerned, which would be a significant, alarming departure for many people. Or maybe it's just that ICE under Trump actually considers possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana to be a “significant misdemeanor offense" — a remarkable position, considering more than half of states have legalized the plant in some form. In fact, prosecutors in Texas' largest city won't even bother taking such small-time pot cases anymore.
RAICES, a San Antonio nonprofit that represents refugees and other immigrants, posted this message to Facebook on Tuesday regarding Romero's case:
RAICES is working with the family of Josue Romero, a DACA student and loved member of the San Antonio community who has been arrested and taken into ICE custody. Josue is a graduate of Brackenridge High School in San Antonio, TX and is currently in his second year at Southwest School of Art in San Antonio. Bexar County Sherrif's Department triggered this case to ICE. Josue is currently on his way to Pearsall Detention Center. Our Executive Director is currently at Pearsall waiting to talk to Josue and sign documents so we can fight his legal case. WE CAN’T DO THIS WITHOUT YOU! We cannot file the request for parole until tomorrow. We need you to be waiting and ready to flood ICE with calls the minute after we file. We will be updating folks with the number to call and a call-in script. Tomorrow, everyone must call ICE and demand his release. Your friends must call ICE. Your family must call ICE. We must make our voice as a community LOUD and HEARD. Stay tuned and stay angry! #FreeJosue