On December 28th, 2018 Jose Montelongo (28 y.o.), who has lived in Flagstaff since age 9, was booked into the Coconino County Jail after he was pulled over for a traffic violation. It was discovered that he had a warrant for his arrest for failing to pay a city court fine in relation to a prior DUI charge.
Jose was then taken into custody of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and was detained. Jose and his attorneys filed a lawsuit against the Coconino County Sheriff and jail commander for their ICE detainer policy in January of 2019. In order to avoid litigation, ICE and the Sheriff lifted the detainer on Jose and tried to settle the lawsuit outside of the courts. The Sheriff was willing to say he would not notify ICE and in return, Mr. Montelongo would have to dismiss the lawsuit.
After the detainer was lifted, family and community supporters came together, paid Jose’s $200 bond, and waited outside the jail to warmly welcome Jose back home. Though ICE was present and waiting for Jose’s release, Jose was was not approached due to the overwhelming support of his family and community and was safely escorted by community supporters to a safe place.
On the eve of Easter weekend, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed retaliatory raids against Jose Montelongo and people close to him in Flagstaff and Sedona, AZ.
On April 18th, 2019 around 3:00-4:00 pm, in an unmarked vehicle in a Flagstaff neighborhood, ICE agents pulled over a family member of Jose's. The agent asked for his name and registration but immediately placed him under arrest and stated, “You know why we are arresting you.” Despite agents not having a warrant of arrest for him, they proceeded with his detention. At the time of the arrest, ICE agents threatened this individual by stating that if he did not tell ICE officers the location of Jose Montelongo, ICE was going to arrest other members of the family and showed him profiles of multiple people in the community. This individual enforced his right to remain silent and was taken into custody.
Later in the evening, ICE kept its retaliation promise. Outside a family member’s home and in front of various children, an ICE agent immediately tackled a non-relative on the street and questioned his partner who demanded answers as he was being arrested. These two individuals were detained, held hostage, threatened, and interrogated for several hours. ICE showed one of the detained family members photos of other family members and asked to identify them. ICE agents told one of the detained family members that they were aware of who all the people in the pictures were and had a list of locations for each family member. ICE agents informed one of the detained family members that the Montelongo family had been surveilled for some time and showed evidence of family members going to different locations around Flagstaff, even a visit to a restaurant. ICE officers also told these two family members that if the family did not disclose Jose Montelongo’s location, ICE was going to start arresting family members, then friends, and finally they were going to have their kids sent to foster care. Later that evening, ICE made a public statement to Univision that they were doing raids in the Flagstaff community.
Starting at 8:30 AM on April 19th, 2019, ICE surrounded the house of another individual, only related to Jose by distant association, in Sedona, AZ. ICE first detained a family member of Jose’s outside of a gas station. They drove this individual around various locations and threatened to attack her mother and the legal status of extended relatives and friends. Other agents showed up at a home on Windsong Drive with multiple vehicles, blockaded the street, and were heavily armed. Legal observers arrived at this time. It is believed that organizer's phones and locations were being actively tracked, because as soon as they arrived, all agents returned to the home. ICE has been known to use Stingray and other questionable surveillance tactics to locate undocumented people, leaving all of the information of those nearby compromised.
ICE did not have a judicial warrant of arrest to enter the home in Sedona. An attorney at the scene approached the officer in charge, who was the same officer that was outside of the the jail when ICE lifted the detainer of Mr. Montelongo back in February.
It was later learned that Jose Montelongo was inside of the home, though ICE agents stated they did not have any type of confirmation. From inside, Jose feared for his life and the life of his family. The officers were completely surrounding the property heavily armed. Similar to the prior evening, ICE used Jose’s family member as a hostage, this time to negotiate with the homeowner for access into the house. Agents did everything possible to prevent individuals from approaching and filming their actions.
After the homeowner arrived to open the home in exchange for Jose’s family member, the individual negotiated with officers who stated they would break his windows and break down the door if he did not give them consent, despite the fact they did not have a judicial warrant.
Jose felt with others present and watching, he could walk out the home and would not be assaulted by the officers. Despite the fact he turned himself in, the agents surrounding the home, pointed 6-7 automatic weapons at him, forced him on the ground and dragged him into the driveway. Quickly, the agent believed to be in charge of the entire operation, who also claimed he did not know if in fact it was Jose, asked for them to fall back until he could verify it was him. Jose complied with all orders and was immediately put into the same vehicle his family member was released from. While his family member is seen throwing herself on the ground and being comforted by supporters, an agent and Sedona Police Department officer shake hands before leaving the scene.
ICE then took Jose to the Florence Detention Center, but not before pulling over to celebrate his capture behind a Home Depot in Cottonwood, Arizona, thanking him for the raises they would receive, and telling him he had brought this upon himself for filing a lawsuit against the Coconino County Sheriff's Office.
“I feared for my life. They [explicitly] told me it was because of my activism and the lawsuit. They pointed six guns at me and dragged me on the ground. If people had not been there filming, I don’t know what they would have done... If I had an option, I would do things right. I was just working, doing what I had to do to provide and be there for my kids. I was tired of hiding but immigration laws do not give me a choice, they just throw you in cages as if your life and your family doesn’t matter.” -Jose Montelongo
In the aftermath of the raids, those individuals who chose to remain silent are now caged, including one family member of Jose's and Jose himself. Those who were coerced into speaking are now experiencing crises and blaming themselves for Jose’s incarceration and potential deportation. All of the children of the family have suffered irreparable harm. Considering the manpower ICE displayed in this two day attack, all of which is documented, it is believed more than just ICE agents were present at the scene. Those who witnessed strongly believe that if it had not been for their presence and the presence of the attorney, Jose's well being would have been further threatened.
LINKS TO RELEVANT VIDEOShttps://youtu.be/eOsD9GO3xqUhttps://www.facebook.com/RepealCoalitionAZ/videos/803648123331253/https://www.facebook.com/RepealCoalitionAZ/videos/809420226107499/https://www.facebook.com/RepealCoalitionAZ/videos/2276133442655734/
Repeal Coalition is a community collective that firmly believes every human being deserves a right to live, love and work wherever and whomever they please. Our work is done with, not for, the communities directly affected by unjust policies. More information can be found at www.facebook.com/RepealCoalitionAZ.
Mijente is a political, digital, and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing and movement building. Launched in 2015, Mijente seeks to strengthen and increase the participation of Latina/o people in the broader movements for racial, economic, climate and gender justice. @conmijente