BREAKING NEWS : Indiana coronavirus cases increase to 74,328; 2,835 deaths Full Story
BREAKING NEWS : Allen County reports 68 new COVID-19 cases Full Story

Houston activist who invited ICE to a community forum is facing deportation. His family believes he was targeted

The recent arrest of an undocumented Houston immigration activist has many concerned that the Trump administration is targeting outspoken critics. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.

Posted: Sep 18, 2019 11:30 AM
Updated: Sep 18, 2019 11:30 AM

A judge denied bond Monday for Roland Gramajo, a community activist who was arrested by immigration agents weeks after hosting a forum to quell concerns about immigration raids.

The 40-year-old father of five, an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant who has been living in the US for 25 years, has been an outspoken activist for immigrants in Houston, Texas, the place he calls home.

He was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents earlier this month, ICE said.

The agency says the arrest was part of a routine operation based on an anonymous tip to remove Gramajo, who had re-entered the US illegally in 2004.

Family and friends say they believe Gramajo's activism made him a target of ICE, as the Trump administration pursues a hardline agenda on immigration. Weeks before his arrest, Gramajo had invited ICE to a forum he hosted to help ease fears about ICE raids, but the agency declined, the activist and his lawyer said.

"We want to believe these are coincidences, unfortunately the more and more we see them, the more we feel that some people who are speaking out against the administration or ICE are being targeted by those same agencies," said Cesar Espinosa with FIEL Houston, an immigrant rights organization.

Gramajo is being held by US Marshals because the federal government wants to convict him for illegal reentry, something that could result in prison time before he is deported.

The judge's decision to deny bond clears the way for the government to prosecute him for the illegal reentry charge.

The judge said if Gramajo was released to ICE, he could be deported before that case could be tried.

Gramajo was deported in 2004

Gramajo was convicted of burglary of a vehicle -- a misdemeanor -- in 1999 when he was 19 years old, according to court documents read by a judge Monday. Because he was in the US illegally, he faced deportation.

Gramajo's appeal of the ruling was denied in 2001.

He was deported on June 21, 2004, ICE said.

Gramajo returned to the US a few months later, according to his lawyer Raed Gonzalez, and ever since has been living in Houston, where he became a community activist known for helping other immigrants. Last year, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner named May 17 "Roland Gramajo Day."

ICE told CNN it received an anonymous tip in July that Gramajo was in the country illegally. The source provided Gramajo's address, business address and information on his car.

A month later, Gramajo hosted the community forum and an ICE officer was given the assignment to check out the tip. Gramajo was pulled over and arrested on September 5, ICE said.

ICE officials told CNN the agency "does not target unlawfully present aliens for arrest based on advocacy positions they hold or in retaliation for critical comments they make."

"To be abundantly clear, ICE personnel did not attend this Immigration Forum in any capacity -- official or unofficial," the agency said in a statement.

The agency said Gramajo was arrested because his "repeated actions have demonstrated that he has no regard for US laws."

Gramajo's wife and attorney say he's not a criminal

Gramajo returned to the US after his deportation to support his family, Gonzalez said.

"This is one of the good guys, this is one of the good hombres that we should not be deporting, according to this administration," Gonzalez said. "We believe that at some point he may have been singled out because he was an activist."

Gramajo's family says he didn't apply for legal status because his illegal reentry would have made approval nearly impossible. Gonzalez said his client didn't know he could reenter the country legally at the time. His wife, Magaly Quicano, is a permanent resident and his five children are US citizens.

"I'm a single mother now with five children in my house and there are too many questions to answer, it's a lot of stress," Quicano said, adding that her greatest fear is that her husband will stay in prison.

If Gramajo is deported, Gonzalez said, he wouldn't be eligible to return to the US for 20 years. He'd be in his early 60s.

"Just imagine being separated from a loved one for 20 years," Gonzalez said. "This is going to be really tragic for this family."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 73287

Reported Deaths: 3036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15701725
Lake7496275
Elkhart480184
Allen3835163
St. Joseph342381
Hamilton2723104
Vanderburgh192213
Hendricks1871108
Cass17869
Johnson1741118
Porter129439
Clark120247
Tippecanoe118911
Madison94365
LaPorte89430
Howard88465
Kosciusko84712
Bartholomew78047
Marshall77422
Floyd77246
Monroe74630
Delaware71452
Dubois68712
Boone67246
Noble66329
Hancock64738
Vigo61910
Jackson5855
Warrick57930
LaGrange55710
Shelby54627
Grant52630
Dearborn49628
Morgan46734
Clinton4303
Henry37620
Wayne36810
White36110
Montgomery35221
Lawrence34227
Decatur33532
Harrison32723
Putnam2868
Miami2692
Scott26610
Daviess26420
Greene24634
Franklin24114
Jasper2342
DeKalb2304
Jennings22412
Gibson2214
Steuben2073
Ripley1997
Fayette1867
Carroll1852
Perry18412
Starke1777
Posey1700
Orange16924
Wabash1653
Fulton1642
Wells1622
Jefferson1602
Knox1510
Whitley1516
Washington1391
Tipton1379
Spencer1313
Huntington1223
Newton11810
Randolph1184
Clay1165
Sullivan1131
Adams962
Jay910
Owen871
Pulaski791
Rush764
Brown731
Fountain732
Blackford632
Ohio635
Benton610
Pike530
Parke511
Vermillion490
Switzerland460
Crawford440
Martin430
Union390
Warren221
Unassigned0202

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 99969

Reported Deaths: 3668
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin18182523
Cuyahoga13414499
Hamilton9583255
Lucas5288323
Montgomery431894
Summit3523222
Marion292245
Butler289163
Mahoning2532255
Pickaway238342
Stark1813139
Warren176739
Lorain173678
Columbiana165660
Trumbull1518106
Fairfield136732
Delaware129219
Licking126049
Clark114214
Lake111138
Wood103058
Clermont92111
Medina91435
Miami83238
Tuscarawas78114
Portage75461
Allen73244
Greene68412
Belmont62126
Mercer60513
Richland60012
Erie57027
Ashtabula56246
Geauga55444
Wayne52958
Ross4684
Huron3955
Darke39329
Ottawa37726
Sandusky37316
Hancock3723
Athens3561
Madison35510
Holmes3276
Lawrence2790
Auglaize2506
Union2461
Muskingum2251
Jefferson2242
Scioto2241
Putnam20517
Seneca2043
Knox2037
Washington20222
Preble2012
Coshocton1926
Shelby1904
Crawford1745
Champaign1732
Morrow1682
Hardin16412
Clinton1626
Highland1561
Logan1522
Fulton1471
Wyandot1458
Ashland1433
Defiance1424
Williams1343
Brown1272
Perry1233
Guernsey1167
Henry1162
Hocking1169
Fayette1120
Carroll1115
Monroe9118
Pike760
Jackson740
Van Wert711
Paulding670
Gallia651
Adams592
Meigs380
Vinton312
Harrison261
Morgan250
Noble170
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 92°
Angola
Few Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 88°
Huntington
Scattered Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 87°
Decatur
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 85°
Van Wert
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 85°
Sunny, Seasonable Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events