#FreeYoel, Save a Life!

Just last week, the agents of ICE raided multiple food processing plants, arresting over 700 undocumented workers, leaving behind many homes of children without parents to take care of them. We’ve seen the videos and pictures of kids crying in the streets, not knowing of the future that awaits. 

Of course, similar smaller-scale raids and unchecked arrests have been happening all over the region for many months now, sending people into government-sanctioned detention centers for various amounts of time. Some of these centers are right here in Louisiana, and conditions are described as brutal and unnecessarily harsh. 

One such detainee, Yoel Alonso Leal, is in a most unique situation. According to a petition that is circulating online by the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, “he has spent over ten months being shuttled through a series of secretive ICE detention centers, his health rapidly deteriorating for exercising his legal right to seek asylum.”

The petition, currently at 981 signees with a goal of reaching 1,000 in preparation for being delivered to local ICE field office directors Scott Sutterfield and Brian Acuna, states most clearly  to the organization holding Yoel:


“ICE’s 2009 Parole Directive mandates that detainees receive parole interviews within seven days of the establishment of credible fear; and yet Yoel and thousands of others have never had a parole interview. The Directive states that “when an arriving [immigrant] found to have a credible fear establishes his or her identity, and that to the satisfaction of [ICE] he or she presents neither a flight risk nor danger to the community, [ICE] should, absent additional factors…parole the [immigrant] on the basis that his or her continued detention is not in the public interest;” and yet Yoel was denied parole. The Directive states that detained people “who have serious medical conditions, where continued detention would not be appropriate” as the “first category” of people who meet the parole standards; and yet Yoel was denied treatment even after doctors at Addams Correctional Facility found a tumor in his lung in June. ICE prevented him from getting the testing or care he needs, and then, only two days after receiving a second parole request including documentation of Yoel’s diagnosis, your office again denied Yoel parole.

This indiscriminate, indefinite detention is both illegal and immoral.”

When reached for comment, Chloe Segal, lead organizer for the Congress of Day Laborers, had this to say:

“The New Orleans ICE Field Office is acting without oversight or accountability and perpetrating some of the worst abuses of asylum seekers here in Louisiana. That’s why we’re heartened to see hundreds of Louisianans and hundreds of medical professionals standing up for human rights and human decency by demanding ICE free Yoel. We hope Congressman Richmond and our other elected representatives will follow their lead and use the power of their offices to hold this rogue agency accountable before ICE’s race to fill Louisiana’s prisons and their medical neglect of detainees cost Yoel his life.” 

Martha Alguera, lead organizer with Voces Unidas: Louisiana Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, commented too: 

“Yoel’s condition is worsening and every day that passes he gets worse being forced to stay in a jail cell while his family awaits him in Florida. ICE could EASILY release him and allow him to get the medical attention he needs. He could be sent to FL with an ankle monitor if necessary since this is the protocol for monitoring asylum seekers. The fact that his case has been denied twice is inconceivable to me. His health is so bad he has to rely on the kindness of other inmates to bath him, feed him, wash his undergarments.” 

The petition addressed to ICE can be signed here, and to Rep. Cedric Richmond by medical professionals here

Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. Follow him on Twitter: @billreviews

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