SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A Utah teacher who has dedicated his life to social justice and activism across the United States found out Monday that one of his former students was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I want to be strong and I am strong but you always feel defeated when you can’t do anything at that moment for someone who gets detained,” said Joél-Léhi Organista.

Organista also works with the League of United Latin American Citizens to shut down immigrant detention centers.

He says there’s a “very real” presence of ICE in the state of Utah.

“This past weekend I received lot’s of text messages from people that ICE was even in my own neighborhood by my grocery store trying to round up people.”

Black Lives Matter is encouraging Utahns to call Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and Senator Mitt Romney to do something.

“Why Mitt Romney specifically,” ABC4’s Brittany Johnson asked Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah.

“He has a history of speaking out against Trump. He’s from Utah and part of the LDS Church which has a lot of immigrants,” Scott replied.

Romney does not have individual authority but as a senator he has sway and can influence the process, but it takes all of congress to act on the issue.

Romney issued a statement in response to Black Lives Matter Utah:

“There’s no question that we need to ensure compassionate care for migrant children in government custody as a result of the crisis at the border, and reports regarding a lack of resources and proper care are deeply troubling. DHS has asked Congress repeatedly for additional resources to address this crisis, and Senators have reached bipartisan agreement on nearly $5 billion in additional funding to address these critical resource challenges,” said Senator Romney. 

“It’s unfortunate that both sides seem to be digging in their heels saying I want all or nothing and so we continue to see nothing get done,” said Skyler Anderson, Immigration Attorney, Anderson & Benson.

Anderson says an issue in Utah is that there’s no longer a detention center in the state. Detainees are temporarily transferred to the Cache County Jail in Logan and then to detention centers in Nevada, Colorado or Washington State, which means it’s hard for people to keep track of their loved ones.

“It’s very frustrating. We have times where it’s very difficult to get an ICE officer to call us back. Sometimes they’re good about it. Sometimes they say, I don’t know,” explained Anderson. 

Anderson wants to remind undocumented immigrants that they do have rights in the U.S.

“Just the fact that you are standing in the United States means that you have certain rights. You should preserve them and maintain them, vigorously but It’s easier said than done,” Anderson said. “You don’t have to answer their questions about your citizenship status. You don’t have to let them into your home if they don’t have a warrant that’s signed by a judge. You don’t have to do their work for them. The first thing they have to do is prove that you are here illegally.”

Salt Lake City’s Party for Socialism and Liberation is holding a protest on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Department of Homeland Security Offices.

Click here for details.


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