GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — The detention of an immigrant rights activist and his son sparked protests Friday in Alabama.
More than 20 protesters circled the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden chanting for the release of Marcos and Juan Baltazar.
News outlets that the two were taken into custody by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials Thursday during a routine check-in.
The Adelante organization says Baltazar came to the United States three years ago from Guatemala with Juan after his wife died. ICE stopped him at the Mexican border but let him go as long as he regularly checked in with ICE.
ICE told AL.com Thursday that Baltazar was detained because his son recently turned 18 and is no longer considered a minor. ICE Spokesman Bryan Cox said Baltazar is no longer considered the sole caregiver for a minor child, and Juan turning 18 also changed his status.
Luis Robledo, a workers’ rights organizer for Adelante Alabama, said Baltazar’s detainment seems calculated.
“Are we being targeted? We’re not sure,” he said.
He described Baltazar as a “hard-working, humble man, a good Christian” who “has been kidnapped by ICE.”
“He’s here because he’s fleeing the economic, social and structural violence and crime that’s in his country, and that’s why he crossed the border,” Robledo said.