NFL players Josh Norman and DeMario Davis helped pay part of the $50,000 bail to get immigration activist Jose Bello out of a California detention center.
Bello was being held at a Bakersfield facility as his immigration case went through the legal system.
“Josh and I wanted to do something symbolic to show people how there’s something they can do to help,” Davis, a New Orleans Saints linebacker, told NFL.com.
In 2018, ICE arrested Bello and his brother, claiming they were members of a street gang with criminal convictions. Bello was released after raising $10,000 bail.
ICE officials said Bello and his brother were granted voluntary departure to Mexico, but came back to the U.S. illegally. Bello was born in Mexico and came to the United States at three years old as an undocumented immigrant.
In January, Bello was charged with a DUI and pleaded no contest. He was sentenced to three years probation.
Then in May, ICE arrested Bello two days after he read an anti-ICE poem entitled, “Dear America” at a public forum.
Part of the poem read:
“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 ACLU, as well as Davis and Norman, believe that Bello’s May arrest was retribution for reading that poem, so they felt they needed to step up and help him out.
“The close succession of these two events strongly indicates that ICE acted in retaliation against Mr. Bello for his speech expressing views against the agency’s actions,” the ACLU wrote according to court documents. “If left unaddressed, ICE’s actions will chill immigrant speakers from sharing criticisms of the agency at the very same time that it’s escalating aggression and increasing use of detention are at the center of public debate.”
“Jose Bello was exercising a fundamental right that we pride ourselves on as Americans,” said Norman, a Washington Redskins cornerback, in an ACLU release. “If he was detained for reciting a peaceful poem, then we should really ask ourselves, are our words truly free? This is America, right?”
Davis is a big advocate of bail reform.
“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,” Davis told NFL.com’s Jim Trotter. “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.”
Norman wants to be on the “right side of history.”
“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,” Norman said. “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.”
Along with Norman and Davis, the National Bail Network Fund and the New York Immigrant Freedom Fund also helped pay Bello’s bail.