ICE terminates cases for two DACA youth arrested without probable cause




Máxima Guerrero is pictured outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in central Phoenix on June 1, 2020. Guerrero was arrested while she was a legal observer of a #BlackLivesMatter demonstration on May 30. She and three others who were arrested that night now face deportation. Photo courtesy Diego Lozano/Facebook

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has terminated the immigration cases for Máxima Guerrero and Roberto Cortes, who were arrested by the Phoenix Police Department following a May 30 protest and placed in immigration proceedings when federal agents detained them at a local jail. 

Guerrero, 30, and Cortes, 22, have temporary protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which the Trump administration unlawfully sought to end in 2017. 

The termination of the immigration cases for Guerrero and Cortes on June 23 brings procedural closure to two young people whose life quickly became entangled in the local policing, criminal justice and immigration detention systems. 

“I’m glad to see the case was resolved the way it should’ve been,” said Ray Ybarra Maldonado, the attorney for both Guerrero and Cortes. “I don’t think Máxima or Roberto should’ve had to have the disgrace and humiliation of being placed with an ankle monitor, as if you are some sort of dangerous person and/or going to escape. 

“I think the fear put into them of possibly being deported in the near future is harm that can never be undone. That emotional and psychological damage will remain with them.”

Guerrero and Cortes were arrested by Phoenix police along with more than 100 people on May 31 following a protest over the deaths of George Floyd, Dion Johnson and other Black Americans killed after encounters with law enforcement. 

Guerrero and Cortes were charged with rioting, a felony. Felony convictions make people ineligible for DACA. A county judge dismissed their cases on May 31 when no probable cause for arrest was established. 

However, ICE agents then took them into custody at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Fourth Avenue Jail because of the pending criminal cases. Another DACA recipient, Johan Montes Cuevas, and an undocumented immigrant, Jesus Orona Prieto — who advocates say was racially profiled — were also arrested by police on May 31, released from local custody and detained by ICE.

Within several hours, community groups successfully advocated through social media and phone calls for the release of Cortes, Guerrero and Montes Cuevas. ICE set them free under a supervision program and set an appearance in court before an immigration judge, where they could face deportation proceedings. 

Orona Prieto has been in ICE custody since. His girlfriend previously told the Arizona Mirror that he feels pressured to voluntarily deport. 

In mid-June, police said “confusion on the paperwork process” led to the felony charges for Cortes, Guerrero, Montes Cuevas and Orona Prieto. By June 19, prosecutors declined to pursue charges in all four cases

On her Instagram account, Guerrero shared a video showing what it’s like to be under ICE’s supervision program, called Alternatives To Detention, and the emotional toll of being monitored.

Guerrero said her experience was “completely unnecessary,” but possible because of the voluntary partnership between MCSO and ICE. 

Ybarra Maldonado, the attorney, agreed. 

“At the end of the day, this never should’ve happened. ICE should not be taking people from the jail when their cases are still pending,” he said. “The reality is ICE remaining in the jail will lead to future situations like this of distress, anxiety, the unlawful detention, the continued detention of people who are innocent for what they were arrested for.”