Questions remain after ICE labels detained Bakersfield College student a gang member


It’s been three days now since a Bakersfield College student was arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and there are still many unanswered questions after ICE called the young man a gang member.

Here are the facts on which all parties agree.

Early Tuesday morning, Bakersfield College student Jose Bello and his brother Oscar Bello-Reyes were arrested and detained by ICE. 

Jose Bello now sits in Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield.

But from there the stories diverge.

Jose Bello’s family, fellow students, and teachers describe the pre-law and business student as a hard working man who does not take his education for granted.

However ICE says Jose Bello is a gang member, with a violent criminal past, who had prior run-ins with immigration enforcement, and re-entered the country illegally anyway.

But here’s the problem.

According to the Kern County Superior Court website, there is no criminal history for a “Jose Bello” born in 1997, Jose’s birth year according to his family.

So we asked ICE to provide us with Bello’s date of birth and the specific convictions that led ICE to conclude he was a gang member who’s committed violent offenses harming others.

ICE would not confirm Bello’s date of birth saying that would violate ICE’s privacy policies and ICE would not release any additional information about Bello’s past. 

We spoke with an immigration attorney who explained it’s hard to fight back with limited information. 

“It’s quite difficult in all cases similar to this one because again ICE is saying something publicly but you would think that if someone is retained by an attorney, the attorney can go directly to ICE and say can you hand over all information that you have at least all damaging information that you have you’re using to back up your allegations…However in practice, that’s not what happens,” explained immigration attorney Gabriela Lopez Garcia with Eaton and Associates. 

Eaton and Associates have not been retained by Bello, though the law firm is looking at the case. 

We went to Mesa Verde Detention Center this morning to speak with Jose Bello but we were unable to see him because detainees are allowed only one visit a day by people other than clergy or attorneys.

Bakersfield College Dean of Instruction Manny Mourtzanos met with Bello today, but Dean Mourtzanos would not speak with us about his meeting. 

Bello’s brother Oscar Bello-Reyes does appear to have a criminal record in Kern County, but not for gang affiliations. 

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