By Jasmin López | Published by Immigrant Defense Project‘s Indefensible Podcast
In 2016, William Diaz Castro was arrested at his home in New Orleans by ICE agents who were looking for someone else. He was charged with “illegal reentry” because he had been deported to Guatemala before. But this time, William’s wife Linda and their son witnessed the traumatic arrest. William is a leader with the Congreso de Jornaleros/Congress of Day Laborers, an organization of immigrant workers founded by day laborers who helped rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina, and drove a grassroots campaign for his release from inside the detention center.
To support William’s case, Linda found an attorney, Sima Atri with the New Orleans Workers Center Racial Justice. She hadn’t seen cases like William’s, individuals without prior convictions or extensive immigration records being charged with illegal reentry, which are more common along the border. Sima says that William’s case demonstrated a dangerous trend in New Orleans – one that compounds the entrenched racial and economic disparities of the world’s “prison capital.”
Since 2005, over 730,000 people have been prosecuted in our federal courts for the crime of improper migration. Last year 52% of all prosecutions in the federal courts were for either crossing and recrossing the border. In April 2017 Attorney General Jeff Sessions specifically directed federal prosecutors to increase prosecutions and punishment for immigration related offenses including illegal entry and re-entry. At the same time, ICE agents have been directed to treat all undocumented immigrants as “priorities” for deportation.