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Local Latino leader and son detained by ICE


Whitney Sides
Senior Staff Reporter


Three years ago, Marcos Baltazar migrated to the U.S. from Guatemala after the death of his wife and infant twins during childbirth.  


He is the father of six children, including his 18-year-old son, Juan. Only J. Baltazar and M. Baltazar live in the U.S. to provide for their family in Guatemala.  


Baltazar was allowed to remain in the United States as the primary caregiver to his children as long as he made regular check-ins at the ICE office, located off of West Valley Avenue in Homewood. 


Last month, M. Baltazar detained by ICE during a routine check-in at their Homewood office last month.  


Resha Swanson, Adelante policy and communications coordinator said since Juan recently turned 18, he is moving through the immigration court system as an adult and is awaiting hearings along with his father.  


Baltazar is on the board of workers’ advocacy non-profit group, Adelante Alabama. The group held a press conference last week calling for Baltazar and his son’s release. 


“ICE’s decision to detain them was unnecessary and cruel,” said the group in a statement. “Marcos and Juan had no criminal record, and were doing everything required of them to comply with ICE’s requests."


There have been several reports in last month of other high profile Latino immigrant activists and community leaders being detained by ICE in Chicago and other cities nationwide.  


Both men are now being held at La Salle ICE Processing Center in Jena, Louisiana after initially being detained at Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden. 


“ICE argues that they are detaining people with a final deportation order, but that is not true,” said Natividad Gonzalez of the Alabama Center for Immigrant Justice. “They are abusing their power and are practically stopping whoever crosses their path." 


Currently the most harmful policy, according to Gonzalez, includes agreements local law enforcement agencies have with the federal government, where routine stops by local police can lead to detainment in immigrant detention centers and possible deportation orders by ICE. 


People are often detained locally while in the course of their daily activities, Gonzalez said. She also said these detentions are unduly hard on immigrant families because fathers are usually the ones who are detained. 


“They are the head of the household, leaving the family helpless and the children generally present trauma and fear,” Gonzalez said. “These injustices happen day by day.” 


Gonzalez said the Alabama Coalition for immigrant Justice is working in partnership with three other organizations on implementing a rapid response strategy for Alabama.  


“Our community hotline receives calls about ICE activity, and we deploy people to verify the information and document the situation,” said Gonzalez.  


Baltazar spoke with his coworkers at Adelante last week and said he said he is doing his best to maintain a positive attitude during what has been an extremely difficult time for him and his family, according to Swanson. 


“He came to Adelante seeking help and was able to secure a victory through organizing and litigation. He has since remained an advocate for his community” the group posted on a GoFundme page, set up to support Baltazar’s other children while he is detained. 


Harsh conditions within Etowah, where both men were taken after arrest, have been widely reported.  


“While Etowah is far worse than the current detention center, they all share one thing in common — locking people in cages and denying them their freedom and humanity” said Swanson.  


“We believe that you can’t create ‘nice cages’.” 


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