In a San Antonio immigration court today, a legal fight was brewing that was expected to produce new information about a relatively rare FBI national security investigation reportedly targeting an anti-ICE DACA student for threatening to make bombs, at the least. For context as to why this case matters, pro-immigration advocates across the country have been demanding the dismantling of ICE, and animus toward the agency has produced some online threats that look and feel like a new kind of leftist, domestic, anti-government terrorism.
It was the bond hearing for Sergio "Mapache" Salazar, 18, who detained on an immigration violation beef on August 3 while at an anti-ICE protest camp outside a San Antonio ICE facility. As I wrote on Monday, Salazar's friends, family, and lawyers for the immigrant advocacy group RAICES have been telling the media ever since that Salazar was merely a victim of ICE retaliation for exercising his constitutionally protected right to protest. They say he is innocent of anything criminal.
But it was obvious right away that there was more to the story, in part because RAICES released a press statement after Salazar's arrest that disclosed FBI agents had a search warrant "for his cell phone based on accusations ... related to impeding an officer and threats of bomb-making" and had been surveilling his house and watching his social media. Reporter Guillermo Contreras of the San Antonio Express-News reported that law enforcement sources told him, "Salazar was being looked at because of his or his group's online postings allegedly threatening law enforcement — and specifically ICE — and/or instructional videos on how to make certain unspecified weapons and countering law enforcement."
This information certainly suggested that immigration violations and ICE protest retaliation had a lot less to do with the arrest of Salazar than with this bomb-making-and-law-enforcement-threat thing.
At Salazar's bond hearing Wednesday morning, ICE lawyers were going to try to persuade the judge to keep Salazar in ICE detention as a threat to public safety. Conversely, Salazar's RAICES lawyers told the judge they were going to argue for a $1,500 bond so he could go free.
That is, until the ICE lawyers provided 21 pages of FBI evidence that included Salazar's tweets, seized in a search warrant as part of the aforementioned FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) investigation. Salazar's lawyers called for a week to review the material. The judge compromised and gave them an hour.
When the court convened at the appointed time — the 21 pages ostensibly read and somewhat processed — Salazar's lawyers withdrew their bond motion without explanation. The ICE lawyers had no objection to keeping Salazar behind bars. Court was adjourned.
The contents of the 21 pages of Twitter tweeting remained uncharacterized. No one would comment on either side.
The FBI JTTF investigation no doubt continues.
It is important for the public to know about cases like this to shed light on emerging homeland threats such as a new kind of anti-government extremism targeting our police for doing their jobs. Arrests and prosecutions of such activity are important, as a deterrent, at this stage of threat emergence and before any ICE officers are hurt or killed.