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How Interpol thwarted a mother’s immigration case and she ended up in detention

By 37ci3 Feb22,2024


Barahona-Martinez now hopes her work will “reach the eyes and ears of those working on immigration,” she told NBC News. and Sky News in his first sit-down interview since his release. He said in his native Spanish: “It is very painful to see, hear and feel the injustice that I have experienced.

Barahona-Martinez’s attorney, Sandra Grossman, said her firm has been fighting “false Red Notices” allegedly filed against her client for more than 15 years, but Barahona-Martinez’s case is “one of the most egregious examples” she has ever seen. .

Grossman said that while most Red Notices are legitimate, the potential damage if a name is removed from the list but slips through the cracks is often too great.

Barahona-Martinez fled to the United States with her children to seek asylum in 2016 after facing torture and death threats from gangs after a lesbian woman was accused of belonging to a rival gang and demanding less than $30. He attributed the accusation to a police officer who resented his sexual orientation and dismissed his sexual advances.

Barahona-Martinez was acquitted the following year for lack of evidence. According to the ACLU and Grossman.

LGBTQ people in El Salvador are known to face “torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, excessive use of force, illegal and arbitrary arrests, and other forms of abuse, many of which are perpetrated by public security agents,” according to a Salvadoran government agency. . national police force It was accepted in 2017.

ICE claims it arrested Barahona-Martinez in 2017 because it learned he was “wanted for extortion in El Salvador and determined he belonged to a gang.” In fact, he faced a Red Notice from Salvadoran authorities “based on an arrest warrant for contempt of court, not extortion,” Grossman said. After trying to reopen the case, in which he was acquitted, “He basically didn’t show up for hearings he didn’t know about.”

After Barahona-Martinez was arrested by ICE in 2017 on a Red Notice, an immigration judge failed to hear any testimony or evidence about her credibility, court records show, leading to her lengthy detention.

He spent most of his incarceration in an ICE facility in Louisiana, a thousand miles from his family in Virginia.

When the pain of their separation became too much for Barahona-Martinez, she would find solace in a Spanish-language book about gathering emotional strength that she read from the institution’s library. He still finds solace in this book, which he has kept since it was released more than three months ago.

Jessica Barahona-Martínez sings "Los Lentes de Felicidad."
Jessica Barahona-Martínez reads Rafael Santandreu’s “Los lentes de la felicidad: Descubre tu fortaleza emocional,” which translates as “Lenses of Happiness: Discover Your Emotional Strength,” and says it helped her while she was incarcerated.Nicole Acevedo/NBC News

The toll of his long incarceration becomes apparent when he is reunited with his three children, Gloria Marrogin Barahona, 21, Marcos Marrogin Barahona, 20, and Jazmin Elena Marrogin Barahona, 19, at their home in Virginia. The children were between 12 and 15 years old when ICE arrested their mother six years ago.

“We grew up without him,” Marcos said. “On many birthdays we wished he was with us and on many events in life he wished he wasn’t there. That’s why it’s difficult for us.”

Barahona-Martinez wasted no time with her children that she will never get back. He was not with his sister Bertha as he died of cancer in 2022, one of the hardest parts of his imprisonment.

“We signed a contract. He was going to fight for his life and I was going to fight to be free,” Barahona-Martinez said, recalling one of his last conversations with Berta. “Unfortunately, I had to watch him die, behind bars.”

Jessica Barahona-Martínez with her three children and older sister Gloria Barahona-Martínez.
Jessica Barahona-Martínez with her three children and older sister Gloria Barahona-Martínez.Nicole Acevedo/NBC News

The irreparable damage of ‘Fake Red Notices’

Contrary to what many people think, Interpol not a law enforcement agency. It mainly manages more than a dozen databases of information about crimes and criminals for police forces around the world to access. These include Red warning signals Published by Interpol at the request of anyone 196 member countries.

Red notices not an arrest warrant, but more like digital “wanted person” posters. As Interpol does not investigate the legal nature of alerts, it may be a system abuse and abuse by countries that want to pursue fleeing and present citizens living abroad.

This is particularly harmful to innocent citizens who are legally seeking asylum in the United States, as immigration officials and judges often simply consider the existence of a Red Notice. there must be conclusive evidence of criminalitythough does not in itself determine the probable cause of the commission of the crimeaccording to at least one federal appeals court.

Interpol told NBC News in an email that it “takes any misuse of INTERPOL Red Notices extremely seriously” and has “significantly strengthened” its task force to ensure compliance with Red Notice requirements. policiesas well as a commission for processing requests and removing unreasonable ones.

Interpol declined to comment on the specifics of Barahona-Martinez’s case, citing agency policy.

Interpol is estimated to have rejected or removed an average of 1,000 Red Notices and wanted persons each year over the past five years. According to Interpol data analyzed by the UK-based non-governmental organization Fair Courts. Just in 2021, nearly half of the notices taken down were taken down because they were posted for human rights or political, military, religious or racial reasons.

Four immigrant rights and legal organizations in the U.S. recently cited at least four cases of Red Notices involving Salvadoran immigrants “based on false arrest warrants, false charges, or other unsubstantiated evidence.” letter It was sent to the Department of Homeland Security and asked for an investigation into its reliance on police information from El Salvador.

DHS did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations contained in the letter.

Barahona-Martinez won asylum twice while in prison after an immigration judge found her statements consistent and credible in 2018 and 2019. But federal immigration authorities appealed both rulings under a Red Notice, arguing it gave them probable cause to believe he had committed a crime, even without a conviction. The Board of Immigration Appeals sided with federal immigration authorities both times.

Afterward, the ACLU hired Grossman’s firm to help get Barahona-Martínez’s Red Notice removed. He was released in April 2023, just three weeks after Interpol received the request.

INTERPOL did not say why the Red Notice was lifted in Barahona-Martinez’s case because they don’t usually share that information.

It usually takes INTERPOL six months or more to remove a red notice. According to the Fair Courts.

With the Red Notice gone, ICE could not legally justify its detention, the ACLU argued September 6 lawsuit. Barahona-Martínez was suddenly released three weeks later with a supervision order, requiring her to wear an ankle monitor and check in regularly with ICE.

In a statement to NBC News, ICE wrote that it does not comment on pending litigation, adding that ICE officers “responsibly exercise prosecutorial discretion informed by their experience as law enforcement professionals.”

Jessica Barahona-Martinez with her family after her release in 2023.
Jessica Barahona-Martínez with her family after her release in 2023.Courtesy of Jessica Barahona-Martinez

Barahona-Martinez’s release was “a moment of very mixed emotions” as she adjusted to her new life. When he wanted to join his family, “I was filled with an ugly fear. I realized I was afraid to go out again,” she said, fighting back tears.

While their children are mostly focused on making up for lost time, they also struggle with their own fears.

“I’m still afraid that one day they’ll bring it all up again and send him back to prison,” said his son Marcos. “I just try to spend as much time with him as possible.”

Preventing more unfair Red Notices

Two days after Barahona-Martinez was released ICE has updated its guidelines How to deal with red notices, including not treating them as an arrest warrant and informing and serving the wanted person of the noticeis a meaningful opportunity to fight back.

While Grossman said this is an encouraging step forward, he cautioned that the guidance still lacks language requiring ICE to apply these new directives to existing cases, not just upcoming ones. While ICE did not directly answer whether the directive applies only to new cases, “At no time — by law — has ICE been able to arrest someone based solely on information stemming from an Interpol Red Notice,” he said.

While ICE insists it does not detain people based on Red Notices, Grossman rejected that statement.

“In our experience, the way ICE uses Red Notices is to target non-citizens,” the attorney said. “ICE has very broad discretionary power to arrest a non-citizen in the United States, and I think that when they receive information that a person has a Red Notice, that’s taken as overwhelming evidence of criminality.”

Court documents show that immigration authorities allege in immigration court that ICE arrested Barahona-Martinez in 2017 because he was the subject of an Interpol Red Notice.

“There is no reason for someone with Jessica’s background and a compelling stake in her case to be in ICE custody for six years,” Grossman said.

“There are many cases like Jessica’s,” the attorney added, noting that Barahona-Martinez could still be deported to El Salvador on a contempt of court warrant and face the dangers she’s running from.

In 2021, Congress passed the Transnational Repression Accountability and Prevention Act, stopping US government agencies from extraditing anyone based solely on an Interpol notice. It also requires the State Department to submit reports to Congress on countries that misuse Interpol for political motives and other illegal purposes.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a co-sponsor of the TRAP Act, told NBC News that he believes the State Department is stepping up its efforts to support reforms to Interpol to “ensure that dictators cannot issue arrest warrants for their crimes.” political opponents go unpunished,” but admitted that “more work is needed.”

As Barahona-Martinez shared her experience after her name appeared on the Red Notice list, she warned: “There are a lot of people like me who are unjustly imprisoned.”

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