Be wary of INS laws, former detainee says

Róger Calero had passed through the Houston airport many times before. Each time he came from Cuba, and each time he was granted permission by the law.

Calero, a reporter for Perpectiva Mudial, said he was typically coming from an event he was covering for the New York-based magazine. But on Dec. 3, he was detained by the Immigration and Naturalizaton Service at the airport and was faced with deportation charges.

The basis for Calero’s deportation, he said, was from a conviction in 1988 for selling marijuana to an undercover police officer, although it was a 14-year-old case and he has been a U.S. resident for 17 years.

Calero told a group of faculty and students Tuesday night in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center that he was denied his constitutional rights and that since the Sept. 11 attacks immigrants are facing a greater risk of deportation.

“Their aiming is at silencing a group of workers who will not fight back,” Calero said.

But, Calero said he plans to fight his charges until his March 25 hearing by educating others about INS laws.

“By taking up this fight … it is an example of how this can have a social impact for everyone,” Calero said. “We want to speak not only about my case but join with others that want to do the same, want to fight back.”

Since Calero’s deportation charges, he has traveled across the state to share his story with others. Monday he spoke in Plant City to a group of immigrant to tell them about the struggle that must be fought.

Calero said when he was arrested at the airport, the police read him his Miranda rights but he was denied an attorney because he was being held on detention.

It is the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, Calero said, that has strengthened the power of the INS and denied citizens their constitutional rights.

Calero said, as a result of the law, reporters who refuse to identify their sources have been detained. Isolated immigrant workers have been taken from their families and jobs, too.

Calero remained in jail for 10 days after his arrest and received dozens of letters from people and organizations that shared similar experiences to his, which inspired him, he said .

“If there’s a fight, we can win support for rights for all people in this country,” Calero said.

Perspectiva Mundial is a socialist magazine that defends the interests of workers’ unions.

Calero said he believes he may have been targeted for deportation because of the articles he has written. However, Calero said, his hypothesis can’t be proven.

“We have no evidence that when I came through in Houston the INS knew who I was,” Calero said.

But he does know the INS could confirm he was the magazine’s associate editor when he was sending articles to the publication while he was in jail.

Calero said speaking publicly about his case has made the stakes higher for the possibility of deportation.

The recent deportation issues in the United States, Calero said, are still not well known in Latin American countries.

“Sometimes images are portrayed that nobody is doing anything,” Calero said. “I have found that there are people fighting back. These are images we can help exchange and share as we speak.”