It all changed in a blink of an eye for Heriberto “Beto” Martinez Nolasco in the early morning of June 1, as he slept comfortably next to his partner, Eric Bernacki.
Nolasco was awoken by the loud banging at the front door. When he went to see who was knocking, Nolasco was met by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
According to Bernacki, ICE went to their San Francisco home at around 6:30 a.m. without a warrant and detained Nolasco, while he was crying to his partner for help.
On Wednesday morning, June 15, around 30 people gathered outside of ICE’s San Francisco headquarters, calling for the release of Nolasco from the detention center where he was held.
Hours after the protest took place, Nolasco was released.
“We are thrilled and deeply relieved that Beto is free and back home with Eric, his partner of 11 years, and Ricky, their pug,” read a joint statement by the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office and Free SF Coalition, a day after Nolasco’s release. “It means so much to so many that they will be able to spend the rest of this Pride month together.”
What made Nolasco’s detainment especially difficult for the couple was that it took place during June, the month that the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities hold their annual pride celebration.
“It’s very tough because we’ve always watched the Pride parade,” Bernacki said on June 15, prior to Nolasco’s release. “However, the last three years we volunteered with different organizations to march with them.”
But given Nolasco’s release, he and Bernacki were able to attend this year’s Pride parade on June 25.
“As we celebrate Beto’s release, we also know that our work does not stop,” the statement continued. “ICE never should have taken him in the first place, and so many other immigrants— including members of the LGBTQ community — still face detention, deportation and enormous abuse. We will continue to advocate tirelessly for true love and inclusion for all immigrants.”
Nolasco has a prior removal order, and last year got a DUI after police noticed he was sleeping in his car.
According to Francisco Ugarte, Nolasco’s attorney, the San Francisco Asylum Office determined that Nolasco would be at risk of danger if he returned to Mexico, for being gay. However, despite the asylum office’s determination, anyone who is convicted of a DUI and is undocumented is at risk of deportation.
“We are here today to say that our immigration laws are broken,” said Ugarte on June 15. “They are unjust and immoral and Beto needs to be out with his community, here, during Pride month with his partner and pug. To be able to litigate in case because he is an asylum seeker and has a meritorious chance, a strong chance of success in this country.”
According to Ugarte, Nolasco’s next hearing isn’t until January 2018.
Story by: Alejandro Galicia Díaz