It was a long 89 days for Jose Bello as he sat in a detention center after he was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, but he is free now, and has NFL players Demario Davis and Josh Norman to thank for it.
On Monday, the 22-year-old was released from custody when both players posted his $50,000 bail to have him released.
“Josh and I wanted to do something symbolic to show people know there’s something they can do to help,” Davis, a linebacker with the Saints, said by phone late Monday. “With a lot of these cases, people can’t afford to post bail. So you have things like in Mississippi, where  people were rounded up by ICE, and a lot of kids went to school that day and came home and their parents were gone. Everybody knows that’s a messed-up situation, and they wonder what they can do. Well, you can donate to these national organizations that are providing funds to help with bail for these people. That way, at least they have time to be with their families, get a lawyer and get set up, versus being in a situation where nobody is telling them what’s happening with their kids or with their own situation. It’s inhumane to take parents from their children and not tell them what’s going on with their kids. That’s just something that you would not expect to be happening here in America.”
Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman echoed those same sentiments.
“They wanted to use their position to really call out the injustice they see and were willing to put money into helping with the bond,” said Pilar Weiss, executive director of the NBFN. “They’ve been very genuine in caring about people and learning about the issue and seeing a real responsibility to elevate this to the larger community. They’ve been doing all this work around criminal justice, around policing, around the inequities in mass incarceration and ending money bail, so it was significant for them to step up to want to do education to want to put up their own personal funds to get somebody free and to see the intersection between the immigration system and the criminal legal system.”
Bello found himself being detained less than 36 hours after attending a board of supervisors meeting and reading a poem that criticized the nation’s immigration practices. He was arrested after reading a poem entitled “Dear America,” which stated, in part: “We demand our respect. We want our dignity back. Our roots run deep in this country, now that’s a true fact … We don’t want your jobs. We don’t want your money. We’re here to work hard, pay taxes, and study.”
The college student and farm worker makes around $20K a year and was unable to post bail on his own.
Davis and Norman are among a bunch of people who are trying desperately to end the cash bail system.
The ACLU wrote in a petition that Bello’s First Amendment rights were violated by his arrest, arguing that his detention was basically retaliation for speaking out against this administration’s immigration practices, characterized by the petition filed by the ACLU as “a regime of mass detention and deportation.”
Last month, the petition was denied.
“We’re always searching for a place where we can be of service, and this was one of those places,” Norman said by phone Tuesday morning. “Because of the indecency of what’s going on with these people — not just these people, but the immigration issue overall — we felt compelled to get involved. They’re fighting against a force that’s almost immovable, that’s attempting to silence them. So we’re trying to help the ones that do have a voice so they can be heard. It’s crazy that now our First Amendment right is being challenged, and we want to be on the right side of history.”
Added Davis: “The work is just humanity. We see our roles as, if there’s a fire, it’s up to us to put it out. We want to motivate people to show them what they can do. It’s not just about going on social media and saying, ‘Oh, that’s messed up,’ or expressing your opinion. You can do something. It doesn’t have to be much, but if everybody was to donate $5 or $10 or $100, that could be the next person [to] be released back to their family. It doesn’t correct the whole problem, but maybe we can spark the energy for somebody else to see that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, as Martin Luther King Jr. said.”