On Thursday, Facebook removed immigration attorney Bryan Johnson’s social media post detailing an attempt by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to intimidate his law firm. On December 26, 2017, ICE agents hand-delivered a letter to the law firm of Amoachi & Johnson, implying that it may be obstructing its law enforcement activities. Johnson is nationally known for his representation of unaccompanied minors in removal (deportation) proceedings. He has also written pieces for Latino Rebels.
Johnson had shared images of officers belonging to the ICE HSI gang unit in New York on his firm website, stating in Spanish, “If you see any of the people below who are with the ICE HSI gang unit, avoid them. If you’re outside, stay away. If you are at home, do not open the door.”
In response, ICE hand-delivered a letter to the law office signed by Angel Meléndez, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, requesting that the law firm remove the images from its website and social media, as this “may obstruct lawful law enforcement activity.”
Johnson replied to the letter, declining to remove the images, and noting that all the images shared by Mr. Johnson had already been distributed over the internet publicly by CBS in its coverage of “Operation Matador.”
In addition, Johnson reiterated the firm’s policy that it expressly forbids the presence of ICE or CBP agents on its premises, and reserves the right to prosecute any agents present without a warrant for trespassing. Johnson kept the images up, but did replace the caption on the firm website with the following: “These agents routinely arrest and detain immigrants without evidence of belonging to a gang or being affiliated with a gang. We’ve even seen them arrest the victims of gang violence.”
Johnson told Latino Rebels that his Facebook posts about the letters were removed on Thursday. According to Facebook, the posts did not follow Facebook’s Community Standards.
“We remove content, disable accounts, and work with law enforcement when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety,” Facebook states on its Community Standards page. Categories on the Community Standards page are: Direct Threats; Self-Injury; Dangerous Organizations; Bullying and Harassment; Attacks on Public Figures; Criminal Activity; Sexual Violence and Exploitation; and Regulated Goods.
Johnson did add that another similar post he made on December 13 is still on Facebook.
Numerous immigrant teens across the country have now been released after months of immigration detention resulting from “Operation Matador” due to scant evidence of gang affiliation as a result of a federal court ruling that they could not be held based on alleged gang affiliation without due process of law.
Amy Maldonado is an immigration attorney. She tweets from @AmyMaldonadoLaw.