This morning, New Orleans Immigration Judge William Wayne Stogner delivered a victory to Joaquin Navarro Hernandez and the Southern 32. Jude Stogner’s decision in favor of Joaquin, a day laborer who has contributed to the reconstruction of New Orleans, also critiqued the evidence created by Border Patrol on which ICE based its case. “I have a high degree of certainty that the document is not reliable and won’t sustain the government’s burden,” the Judge said, adding support for Joaquin’s allegations that the arrest documents revealed civil rights violations, racial profiling, and falsified documents to cover up a botched raid on the New Orleans day labor corner.
The immigration judge also rejected ICE’s attempts to use recent news stories to further its deportation case against Joaquin. Judge Stogner found that the relevant evidence should be limited to law enforcement records and declined to take any action that would chill speech and organizing around civil rights violations by immigrant communities in New Orleans.
Responding to the Judge’s decision, Joaquin declared:
Like the rest of the Southern 32, I have risked everything to stand up against law enforcement abuse, racial profiling, and raids which are dividing communities and families. ICE should stop trying to deport me and the other members of the Southern 32 for standing up for the rights of my community. Instead, they should spend their resources investigating the Border Patrol officers that engaged in the raid and cover up.
Two years ago, Joaquin was a day laborer looking for work, standing on a corner, when he became the victim of a botched Border Patrol raid. In the chaos that ensued, Joaquin was pursued several blocks by car and assaulted by a bystander. When a neighbor attempted to report the wrongful mistreatment Joaquin had faced, the New Orleans Police Department—instead of helping Joaquin–took custody of him and turned him over to Border Patrol. Even though Joaquin stood up to expose the misconduct and cover up, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to push for his deportation– all in an attempt to cover up their own abuse and avoid a potential scandal.
Joaquin, a devoted father, originally came to the United States to provide for his family and was one of the many day laborers who was called upon to help in relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Since his arrest, Joaquin has been an active leader and spokesperson for the “Southern 32,” a group of immigrant leaders facing deportation for speaking up about civil and labor rights violations. In early May, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice launched the Stand Up 2012: Make Justice Real campaign demanding that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) follow its own policies and end the practice of deporting labor organizers and civil rights defenders in the South. However, as Joaquin’s case shows, the New Orleans ICE office has done a deplorable job when it comes to upholding their own agency’s policies.
Earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier ruled in favor of Joaquin, noting that the issues of targeted immigration enforcement and local police involvement in immigration raids are of “substantial public interest in the City of New Orleans, where the plight of the large population of immigrant workers who have assisted in rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina has been a matter of particular concern.” However, despite the opinion of the court, ICE continued to push for Joaquin’s deportation.
Immediately after the trial, Undocubus riders—making their fourth stop in New Orleans– gathered outside the courtroom to hold a press conference and rally lifting up the cases of the Southern 32 and urged ICE to follow their own policies and protect these defenders of civil, labor and human rights.