Update: After substantial public pressure Julio was transported to court for his trial and was found not guilty!!
By Meredith Gamble
Positive news today about my friend Julio! He was transported to court for his trial and was found not guilty!!
Julio was able to make it into court today as the result of an enormous amount of effort by his attorney, the ACLU, and concerned citizens who launched a petition that received 2000 signatures and made phone calls to petition targets, community organizations that wrote many letters of support, and the amazing showing of support in the courtroom today (it was standing room only!). While the support from the community is encouraging, it is outrageous that ONLY because of this massive effort was Julio able to defend himself in court today and clear his name. And the fight isn’t over yet - Julio remains detained by immigration and is in deportation proceedings. His not guilty verdict does not get him out of detention or stop deportation, only makes them a bit easier to fight.
While the outcome of Julio’s case is positive, the challenges of his case reflect an insidious and systemic problem in our judicial and immigration systems. It is a problem that categorically denies immigrants accused of even minor infractions their constitutional right to due process.
It should NOT be this difficult to allow someone to appear in court to face a charge they are accused of. It should NOT require the coordination of literally thousands of people between attorneys, petition signers, callers, and others to convince ICE and the facilities that hold ICE detainees (looking at YOU Suffolk House of Corrections) to transport people to their court dates.
ICE interferes and sweeps up immigrants before they have a chance to resolve pending matters in district courts. Agents come into courthouses, read docket sheets, and follow immigrants into the courtroom. ICE is prohibited from making arrests inside courthouses, so they wait outside and arrest immigrants as they leave court. This is what happened in Julio’s case. The immigrant is then detained by ICE, prevented from resolving any district court matters, denied bond because of the pending matter, and fast tracked to deportation.
In immigration court, you do not have the right to a court appointed attorney, and many (if not most) immigration proceedings place the burden of proof on the immigrant, not the government (as it works in criminal law). This makes getting bond and winning an immigration case an exceedingly complex, almost impossible task for someone who does not have the disposable funds for an immigration attorney. And this is how someone who is arrested for a misdemeanor like driving without a license ends up being denied due process, detained, and deported within a matter of weeks.
The Newton judge under fire clearly understood THIS is what happens when ICE is in courthouses. The experience of the judge in Newton is not a one-off. This is happening in courts everywhere in Massachusetts, even in places that like to think of themselves as sanctuaries, like Cambridge, where Julio was stalked and arrested by ICE following a pre-trial hearing.
Julio’s case is a big sigh of relief for me and many others, but it is also an sign of how horrible, inhumane, and unjust the immigration and criminal justice system is. We must do better and hold our elected officials accountable for ICE interfering with and undermining due process, the rights of people who are accused and victims of crime, and the overall safety and humanity of all of us.
How to Help
Donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-julio-ramirez
Poster, What You Can Do
Read ACLU Case Files
Ramirez v. Tompkins, https://www.aclum.org/en/cases/ramirez-v-tompkins