After Antonio Ocampo, a day laborer, served a short sentence for simple battery, a judge ordered him released from the Orleans Parish Prison last August. Yet he was unlawfully incarcerated for nearly 100 more days, after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requested that the prison hold him while it investigated whether he was violating immigration laws.
I recently spoke with Saket Soni, director of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, about Ocampo's case.
The ICE request, known as an "immigration detainer," instructs a jail or prison to hold a particular detainee for only an additional 48 hours after the detainee's release date. Its stated purpose is to provide adequate time for ICE agents to determine whether to take the individual into federal custody and begin formal deportation proceedings. Yet after the 48-hour detainer expired, the Orleans sheriff failed to release Ocampo.
After a battle between the Workers' Center and the Orleans Parish Prison, a federal judge found Ocampo's constitutional right to due process had been violated. Ocampo was finally freed on November 15.
“This win was really not just about Antonio Ocampo," Soni said, "but, as one of our members put it, about who ‘we the people’ are in the U.S. Constitution. ‘We the people’ includes all people. And an immigrant held in illegal custody has as much right to the Constitution as a person at home with kids leading a normal life.”
Listen an audio clip from my conversation with Soni, above, to learn more about how community organizing, legal advocacy, and communications strategies were used to score a victory for open society.
The New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, an Open Society Foundations grantee, is dedicated to organizing workers across race and industry to build power and participation for workers and their communities.