As coronavirus cases climb in Arizona’s immigration detention centers, advocates are asking federal officials not to take a 19-year-old Tucson resident with an auto-immune disorder into custody.
Brayann Lucero, who has lived in Tucson since his parents brought him from Mexico when he was 2 years old, is awaiting renewal of his status in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.
Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials asked Lucero to go to an ICE office on Monday morning, where he would be detained unless he pays a $12,000 bond, immigration advocates said at a news conference outside the ICE office on Tucson’s south side Monday morning. They equated the bond amount to a “ransom” and questioned why he would be detained at all.
“Brayann has complied with any prior requests from ICE and poses absolutely no risk of flight or a danger to the community,” said Cyrina King, a representative of the Keep Brayann Free Coalition.
If he were put in a detention center, “his life will be put in unnecessary danger,” King said.
Lucero was diagnosed with lupus two years ago, making him vulnerable to infections. Immigration advocates call ICE’s detention centers “tinderboxes” for the spread of the coronavirus. Since the start of April, ICE has reported 233 cases among immigration detainees in Arizona, out of more than 2,000 cases across the country. ICE has not reported any deaths related to the coronavirus among detainees in Arizona, but one detainee died in San Diego and another died in Georgia.
On Monday, the private company that runs several immigration detention centers in Arizona reported the first death of an employee attributed to COVID-19. A senior correctional officer at the Eloy Detention Center died on Sunday, a week after he last worked at the facility, according to CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist.
Before Monday’s news conference outside the ICE office in Tucson, advocates gave an ICE official a packet of information asking for humanitarian parole for Lucero. The packet contained statements from doctors and about 30 affidavits from family and friends supporting Lucero, including one from Lucero himself.
“I want to be a part of the Tucson community,” Lucero wrote. “This is my city. This is my home. I would one day like to create jobs for Tucson and help others meet their dreams. I do not remember living in Mexico and I know I have a better life here in Tucson, my home.”
Lucero could not attend the news conference because of the risk of contracting the coronavirus, organizers said.
Sarah Roberts, a registered nurse, read statements from two doctors who reviewed Lucero’s medical records. The doctors wrote that Lucero “will require medical management for the rest of his life” and he would be in “great danger” in a detention center due to the coronavirus.
After the news conference, Rachel Wilson, the immigration lawyer representing Lucero, said ICE believes Lucero is a flight risk, despite the fact that he hasn’t gone anywhere.
“Now, all of a sudden, they demand he present himself to ICE and will not give assurances that he won’t be detained,” Wilson said.
In May 2019, the Border Patrol pulled over Lucero while he was driving with friends who were undocumented, Wilson said. The Border Patrol accused him of human smuggling, but did not charge him with a crime and the agents let him go.
Immigration officials did not bring up the incident until last week, Wilson said.
“Now they’re saying it’s so serious that he must turn himself in to ICE during the pandemic,” Wilson said.
The ICE public affairs office did not respond before deadline to an inquiry from the Star.
The $12,000 bond is “not just” and “holding Brayann could be a death sentence with no trial,” said Lucero’s 15-year-old sister, Nicole Lucero.
Lucero used his DACA work permit to work at restaurants and as a welder, Nicole Lucero said. That permit is now expired and Brayaan Lucero is waiting for renewal. “He has a little sister who has Down syndrome,” Nicole said. “She is quite attached to him. When she is with Brayann, she is very happy because Brayann is always dancing and playing with her.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing a Trump administration plan to end the DACA program and a decision is expected to be published this week.
Contact reporter Curt Prendergast at 573-4224 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CurtTucsonStar
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June's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Bars, gyms face shutdowns; Tucsonans worried telemedicine might disappear
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