One October morning, Osny Sorto-Vasquez got a call from his mom and knew something was wrong. His younger siblings were crying in the background, and his mother sounded scared. A woman who identified herself as a detective with the local police had come to the home Vasquez shares with his family and told them someone was using their address to ship contraband through the mail—potentially putting them in danger. The woman showed the family a picture of a man who she said they were looking for.
“As soon as she said this person could hurt my family, I automatically went into panic mode,” Vasquez told The Daily Beast.
Sorto-Vasquez, a 24-year-old who came to the U.S. from Honduras as a child, is in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, which temporarily shields some young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Sorto-Vasquez, a nursing assistant, recently got a misdemeanor charge for driving under the influence. His lawyers told him it wouldn’t jeopardize his DACA status.
But his encounter with law enforcement—which he described to The Daily Beast from an immigration detention center in southern California—highlights a growing concern among undocumented immigrants: that when they hear from people who present themselves as local law enforcement, it could upend their lives. (The Daily Beast reported earlier this week that ICE is holding a record number of people in immigrant detention.)
Sorto-Vasquez’s life was upended in a particularly jarring way: He told The Daily Beast he’s lost access to HIV-prevention medication.
Two days after that first call, back at home, Sorto-Vasquez got a call from the same woman.
“She said, ‘It’s me, we spoke with you on the phone on Monday,’” he recalled. “We’re with the local police department and we just want to make sure that everything’s OK and that you’re OK. We’re outside if you could come out and talk to us. And please bring your ID with you.’ And I said, ‘OK, I’ll come outside.’”
By Betsy Woodruff for DAILY BEAST
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