Jose Bello speaks out about his time in ICE detention

Paige Atkison, Senior Digital Editor

Bakersfield College student and activist Jose Bello visited campus to share his story of detention and arrests by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with an eager classroom.

Bello, a pre-law student and business major, was first detained by ICE in May of 2018. 

Just hours after his arrest, BC students and faculty rallied around him in support. 

Representatives from M.E.Ch.A (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Atlan), LUPE (Latinos Unidos Por Educacion), and the Student Government Association protested his arrest outside of the Mesa Verde detention center in Bakersfield.

Though Bello made bail with the help of his fellow community members, he was arrested and detained by ICE again in May less than two days after reading a poem at a local Truth Act Forum, an event that requires law enforcement to release data regarding ICE collaborations.

Bello garnered national attention for his poem and subsequent arrest.

He made headlines once more after being bailed out of Mesa Verde by two NFL players, Josh Norman and Demario Davis.

Since his release, Bello has returned to BC and continued his work as an activist, including sharing his story with fellow classmates.

Bello described his detention to Professor Rodacker’s class in vivid detail, calling the Mesa Verde detention center unsanitary and corrupt.

According to Bello, detainees had to purchase sanitary items and if they could not afford it, they went without items such as toothpaste and soap. 

He added that the lack of hygiene lead to an outbreak of disease during his detention.

“It was really sad to see,” Bello said. “It’s inhumane. That doesn’t happen in places like county jails.”

Bello is currently working with organizations to combat the spread of private prisons and detention centers, including Bakersfield’s own Mesa Verde.

“These centers aren’t state or county entities so they don’t have to be transparent in their treatment [of detainees].”

Since his detention in a private facility, Bello has taken it upon himself to increase awareness about private prisons and detention centers, hoping that Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign AB32, a bill that would ban private detention centers, into law.

Though Bello feels he has been changed by both of his stints in Mesa Verde, he remains hopeful that he will become a lawyer and continue as an advocate for social justice.