DACA Student under Anti-ICE Terrorism Investigation Chooses Mexico Deportation over Further Disclosure

U.S. congressman wrote a letter on his behalf

By Todd Bensman on September 17, 2018

Rather than face court proceedings that would further disclose why an FBI counterterrorism investigation has targeted him, San Antonio DACA recipient Sergio "Mapache" Salazar chose to take deportation to Mexico instead. The Mexico-born Salazar was brought to the United States when he was two and has lived in San Antonio ever since, and received temporary legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

As the Center for Immigration Studies reported here and again here, the San Antonio FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) arrested the 18-year-old DACA recipient August 3 on an immigration charge, while he was protesting at an ICE facility. They did so after examining online postings allegedly threatening ICE agents and offering instructional videos on how to make bombs. At an August 22 hearing at which Salazar argued he should be released on a low bond, ICE attorneys were preparing to counter his argument with the release of 21 pages of the online postings. But when they saw the pages, Salazar's attorneys for the immigration advocacy group RAICES abruptly withdrew the bond request, leaving the youth in custody as the FBI counterterrorism investigation continued.

At a follow-up hearing on Friday, September 14, Salazar agreed to deportation without a fight. The online postings, therefore, will not become public, and the FBI counterterrorism investigation likely will not be concluded either. But it is also highly unlikely that Salazar will ever legally live in the United States again, a consequence that must have seemed preferable to the alternative of a domestic terrorism prosecution. His arrest comes at a time of rising calls for violence against ICE agents on behalf of the political cause for less immigration enforcement, which would qualify as terrorism under government codes whether threatened or carried out.

Previously, Salazar had offered to voluntarily depart to Mexico, an act that could have left him with some chance of legally returning to the United States one day. But Salazar jettisoned even that option; a government order of deportation — especially if ICE includes notes in his file about any national security threat — means he likely will never be able to legally live in the United States again. That's a telling decision by Salazar and a tough sentence by itself for someone who has only known a U.S. lifestyle. His lawyers worried that a denial would have left Salazar with a finding of national security risk on his record.

"After discussing it with my attorneys, this is what's best for me, unfortunately," Salazar told Immigration Judge Justin Adams via a video hearing from a Laredo jail, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Salazar could be deported this week. He plans to live in Monterrey, Mexico, with a grandmother, his lawyers told the newspaper.

Salazar's decision to live in Mexico also probably short-circuited potential criminal charges related to national security, as well.

Salazar's friends, family, fellow anti-ICE advocates, and RAICES attorneys have attempted to frame his arrest only as retaliation for his political activism. ICE has strongly denied the accusation amid disclosures that FBI agents had been conducting physical surveillance of him and had executed a search warrant for his cell phone "based on accusations related to impeding an officer threats of bomb-making."

Amid a campaign for his release, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett sent a letter to ICE Field Office Director Daniel Bible asking that Salazar be released pending a full review of his DACA renewal application. Doggett suggested the arrest was "retaliation for his participation in nonviolent protest and other advocacy against what so many of us consider to be unjust Trump Administration dictates."

"While personally differing with both some of Sergio's political views and some of his methods of expressing them, I vigorously defend his right to engage in nonviolent protest and peaceful expression without being targeted," Doggett wrote.

"I respectfully urge you to release Sergio on parole and to his home in San Antonio."