The day Marcos got his electronic monitor off, he had promised to take his kids to Chuck E. Cheese, their favorite place to go with their father.* Marcos would take them on the weekends when their mother was at work. But while wearing the electronic monitor, he couldn’t go anywhere except to and from work. On the weekends, they were stuck at home. So the children looked forward to the day Marcos would complete his 20-day sentence on a monitor.
When the day came, Marcos was called to meet with a sheriff’s deputy to take the monitor off. His wife drove him to the jail in East Urbana. It took five minutes for the deputy to remove his monitor, then he got back into the car.
As they backed out of the parking space, an ordinary-looking minivan pulled up behind them. Two men got out and approached the car. It was Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. One walked up to Marcos, asked his name, and said, “You are under arrest.” Marcos’ kids wouldn’t get to go to Chuck E. Cheese.
Marcos’ story is consistent with national trends. Using court records, ICE is going after people with criminal charges, mostly domestic violence and DUI cases. These are the low-hanging fruit. Marcos had a DUI from 2007, and an order of protection in 2013. As I have reported previously in Smile Politely, ICE has made more than 150 visits to Champaign County since mid-2015. They’ve picked up people at their homes, the courthouse, and one person at a popular restaurant in downtown Urbana.
With the help of Lucia Maldonado, who translated from Spanish, I interviewed his wife, Sofia, and was given the following account.
According to Sofia, Marcos was taking their dog to a veterinarian in Rantoul when he was pulled over by a local police officer. It’s not clear why he was stopped. According to three tickets obtained, he was stopped for “failing to reduce speed.” But a police report written by Rantoul police officer Rene Wissel describes it as an “investigatory stop.” On the force for eight years, Wissel was named Officer of the Year in 2017 for stopping a car with California plates that happened to be driven by a man wanted for murder of his girlfriend.
It appears that Wissel ran the plates when he saw Marcos driving. “My attention was drawn to a silver Ford Taurus,” Wissel writes in his report, and he “learned” the driver had a revoked driver’s license. Marcos had acquired a TVDL (Temporary Visitor Driver’s License, which in Illinois can be obtained by undocumented immigrants) under a different birth date. He had not paid off fines related to a 2007 DUI. Marcos was issued tickets for a revoked license, uninsured vehicle, and a fraudulent driver’s license.
Marcos was assigned a Spanish-speaking public defender who negotiated a deal for a sentence, either 20 days in jail, or 20 days on an electronic monitor. Marcos chose the latter. He was given the date of May 14th as when the electronic monitor was to come off.
According to Sofia, a sheriff’s deputy called that morning to meet at the jail. Marcos promptly took a shower and went to the jail, where the monitor was quickly removed. It’s unknown how ICE was able to find Marcos in the parking lot just minutes after he had arrived at the jail.
I corresponded with Sheriff Dan Walsh who said he did not notify ICE. “Release dates are public record,” Walsh wrote in an email, absolving his office of any blame. “To be clear ― we do not hold for ICE on basis of detainer.”
Urbana passed a Sanctuary ordinance shortly after Trump was elected, but ICE is still freely able to sweep through town unchallenged to pick up undocumented residents. Elected officials in Urbana have yet to take any action to push back against federal authorities.
While Marcos was being arrested, Sofia asked one of the ICE agents, “Why are you doing this? You’re separating families.” She was told, “Don’t worry, he’s going to be fine.” Sofia pleaded, “We are not bad people.”
Indeed, Marcos and Sofia are not bad people. They are parents raising four children who have all been born in Urbana. Their oldest son loves to play soccer and hopes to get a scholarship to go to college. “Why did they arrest my dad?” he asked his mother. She had to explain that if his father is deported, he will not be able to go to college. He will have to quit soccer and work to support the family.
President Trump refers to immigrants as “rapists” and “animals.” ICE says they are going after people who are “public safety threats.” In the national debate, we forget that these are ordinary people. Despite his mistakes, Marcos is just trying to provide for his family and needs to drive to get to work. He is out of jail for now, but has a deportation case pending. Marcos and Sofia want their children to live the American Dream. They are like many other families in our community, but they are undocumented.
*Names have been changed to protect families.
Photos courtesy of Jeff Putney