UPDATE, DEC. 13, 12:23 P.M.: While the Weekly awaited word from ICE on the status of Sixtos-Gomez, he called OC activists from Tijuana shortly ago. The Santa Ana resident has been deported and is now separated from his family.
ORIGINAL POST, DEC. 13, 11:29 A.M.: Immigrant rights activists gathered around 8 a.m. this morning outside Theo Lacy jail in Orange. They knew organizing an emergency press conference would be a race against time in calling for the release of Santa Ana resident Samuel Sixtos-Gomez, who first fell into the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement by way of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department violating the Trust Act in 2014.
But by the time activists with the Orange County Rapid Response Network arrived, ICE beat them to the punch; Sixtos-Gomez had already been transferred out of Theo Lacy on his way to being deported to Tijuana.
Having his asylum case denied by a judge in October, Sixtos-Gomez honored bond conditions by reporting to ICE yesterday. He never walked back out a free man. “We pleaded with [an] ICE officer in the Santa Ana field office,” said Alexis Nava Teodoro at this morning’s press conference. “They have one option left because Sixtos-Gomez does not have a major criminal record. They have the authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion and place him in an order of supervision.”
Indeed, when Santa Ana police first stopped Sixtos-Gomez and another man in April 2014, all that popped up after running Sixtos-Gomez’s name was an outstanding warrant for driving without a valid license six years before. While the misdemeanor offense landed him in county jail for a couple days, Sixtos-Gomez should’ve been protected from the clutches of ICE. Earlier that year, the Trust Act became law in California and protected undocumented immigrants with low-level offenses from being handed over to immigration authorities.
The Sheriff’s Department transferred him into ICE custody anyway, and Sixtos-Gomez got hauled off to a private immigration detention center in Adelanto. “We’ve acknowledged our error of detaining and releasing Mr. Sixtos-Gomez into the custody of ICE in violation of the TRUST Act on April 18,” Lieutenant Jeff Hallock told the Weekly in 2014. “Our action was based on review of information in his [local arrest record] that has been recently determined to be inaccurate.”
Immigrant rights activists in the county rallied to his defense and Sixtos-Gomez started a hunger strike that August to pressure his release; he later got out after making a $15,000 bond.
Under the Trump administration, ICE is operating under the president’s executive order that broadened the pool of undocumented immigrants prioritized for deportation last year. Activists counted on congressman Lou Correa’s office actively negotiating with ICE officials in Los Angeles yesterday in lobbying for an order of supervision for Sixtos-Gomez so that he could remain with family while having routine check-ins with immigration authorities. But at around 6 a.m this morning, ICE informed Correa’s office that they decided to proceed with the deportation.
“This is why we need comprehensive immigration reform—to prevent tragedies like this,” congressman Correa writes the Weekly. “Until we do, families with long histories in Orange County will continue to be separated.”
Absent that, activists are making one last ditch effort this morning. “ICE definitely has the authority to get [Sixtos] off the bus and place him under an order of supervision,” Nava Teodoro said. “We’re asking people to plead with ICE because he deserves to be in the community.” After the press conference, organizations with the rapid response network rallied people to call ICE’s San Bernardino officer, where Sixtos-Gomez had been transferred to en route to Tijuana.
The Weekly asked ICE for comment on Sixtos-Gomez’s deportation and will update once provided a statement. They’re previously noted his multiple removals from the United States in the past.
Before being detained by ICE again, Sixtos-Gomez labored as a farm worker in Irvine to help support his family. The family separation now underway prompts painful “what if” questions with regards to the Sheriff’s Department’s admitted Trust Act violation.
“We would have never met Sixtos,” Nava Teodoro tells the Weekly. “The Sheriff’s [Department] apologized and at that time, I met with Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and pleaded with her in person. Even when I tried to explain to her at a emotional level what their mistake had caused years ago, she didn’t want to get involved in it.”
Now, should Sixtos-Gomez find himself in Tijuana this evening, activists are working to support him on the other side of the border, both by finding lodging, sending clothing and continuing to exhaust all legal avenues with the hopes of returning him to his family, including looking at a U-visa reserved for immigrants who’ve been victimized by crime.
“Not too long ago, Sixtos was the victim of a crime,” Nava Teodoro says. “He was beaten up by a group of individuals and there’s a chance he could submit for a U-visa.”
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!