ACLU Sues ICE and PEN America Files Legal Brief Calling for Release of Student Detained for Reading Poem

“It’s not unpatriotic to denounce an injustice committed on our behalf, perhaps it’s the most patriotic thing we can do.” E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

Two days after he read this poem at a TRUTH Act forum in Bakersfield, California, ICE arrested Jose Bello. The ACLU sued. ICE cannot intimidate us into silence. Visit for updates.

PEN America filed an amicus curiae brief urging a federal appeals court in California to immediately release a student arrested and detained by ICE for publicly reciting a poem. The brief, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, is in support of student Jose Omar Bello Reyes, arrested in May of this year.

“No one should go to jail for reading a poem. Yet, it appears that ICE agents targeted Bello as a result of his poetry reading. When government officials wield their power to silence their critics and suppress lawful, protected speech, they undermine the core protection established by the First Amendment,” said Nora Benavidez, PEN America’s director of U.S. free expression programs. “In our filing today, we are calling on the Ninth Circuit to affirm Jose Bello’s political and artistic speech by fortifying his right to be free from government retaliation. Protest poetry has a long and proud tradition in the United States that must be vigorously defended in our courts of law.” 

In its supporting brief (accessible here), PEN America urges the Ninth Circuit to grant his motion for release and affirm the constitutional guarantees afforded by the First Amendment. PEN America argues that “Mr. Bello enjoys a constitutional right to speak freely, to be free from retaliation for that speech, and to be free from efforts to restrain his ongoing speech on matters of public concern. Moreover, listeners and participants in the ongoing immigration debate have a concomitant right to receive his expressed viewpoints, without government officials deliberately interfering with the flow of that information with a censorial and retaliatory motive and effect. Despite these protections, ICE acted in retaliation for protected speech that was critical of them, striking at the very heart of the First Amendment.”

ICE officers arrested Bakersfield College student Bello May 19 at his home in Bakersfield, California. Bello’s arrest occurred 36 hours after he appeared at a public forum held by the Kern County Board of Supervisors and recited his poem “Dear America,” which included criticisms of current federal immigration policy. After his arrest, the ACLU of Southern California filed a habeas petition on Bello’s behalf, arguing that his detention was retaliatory and violated his First Amendment rights. On July 16, a federal district court judge denied the petition but found the timing of the arrest to be “highly suggestive of retaliatory intent.” The case is now on appeal before the Ninth Circuit.

PEN America has previously expressed its concern about the enforcement action taken against Mr. Bello, as well as the broader issues around the erosion of free speech through ICE’s targeted enforcement actions. Most recently, it joined amicus briefs on behalf of detained Tennessee journalist Manuel Duran Ortega, who was arrested in April 2018 while reporting on a protest, and immigrants’ rights activist Ravi Ragbir, who was detained and targeted for deportation following his criticism of ICE at public rallies and on media outlets.


This content is courtesy of PEN America, the ACLU, and

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”Officially nonpartisan, the organization has been supported and criticized by liberal and conservative organizations alike.[9] The ACLU works through litigation and lobbying and it has over 1,200,000 members and an annual budget of over $100 million. Local affiliates of the ACLU are active in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The ACLU provides legal assistance in cases when it considers civil liberties to be at risk. Legal support from the ACLU can take the form of direct legal representation or preparation of amicus curiae briefs expressing legal arguments when another law firm is already providing representation.

“The New Narcissist” … and other poetic responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

“It was hitting me now, really for the first time, how being fucked up can turn into a form of narcissism. So that I barely acknowledged that others might need something from me.”  Koethi Zan, The Follower

And it being Tuesday, here are the responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, Narcissism Rising, July 24. We are all narcissists to one degree or another. Thankfully, we’re not all pathologically so.  A thought provoking collection here with our poets’ explorations of narcissism in its many manifestations.

This collection is courtesy of Paul Brookes, Anjum Wasim Dar, Irma Do, Deb y Felio, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Pali Raj, and Mike Stone. Today we also warmly welcome Shaun Jax and Kelly Miller and the poems they share.

Enjoy! And do join us for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt, which will be posted on August 7th.  I’m taking some time off from The Poet by Day to get caught up with other writing but I look forward to see you back here within a week.  Meanwhile, poem on …

The New Narcissus

Got my Prada
Got my Gucci
Got drama like Susan Lucci
I’m a TMZ All Star
Killin’ the Game
So check my follower count –
‘Cause everyone knows my name
And y’all, I’ll do anything
If it gets me noticed
Got those tabloid scandals
Like my name was POTUS
And I really don’t care
‘Bout no kids at the border
Trophy wife like Bugatti y’all
I had to import her
Now I wear her on my arm
Like a gold Rolex
‘Til she gets a little older
Then it’s “thank you, next!”
Just like DJ Khaled
All I do is win
And y’all actin’ so offended
But you keep tunin’ in
‘Cause this is Hadleyburg
Everybody knows it
All it took were some pieces
Of gold to expose it
So keep my name trendin’
Y’all, give it a boost
But don’t act so surprised
That I’ve come home to roost

© 2019, Shaun Jex

SHAUN JEX is the publisher and editor of the Citizens’ Advocate newspaper. In addition to his poetry and journalistic work, he writes frequently about pop culture history. To read more of his poetry, visit

The #1 Narcissist

I know how the #1 Narcissist operates
His ego we’ve learned to defend and tolerate
Ask for what He wants and He’ll grant it
With the quickness
Ask for what you want and He’ll ignore it
Like it’s bullshit
His Will is vapid and discriminatory
So know that you’re on your own my darling
He gives freely what you must earn
By toiling for nothing
And then He names it “blessing”
As you force yourself to appreciate
Thinking…knowing, “This isn’t for me.”
One-sided, selfish, and jealous
He full well knows that if He always comes first
There will be nothing left
And there will always be
An abrupt ending to your happiness
Before He recognizes all you’ve sacrificed for Him
And His unrealized promises
You will give out completely
Before you have realized your own dreams
Trying to live under the threat of the most righteous smite
Forbidden to, and anyway no energy left
To fight for your personal rights
Always feeling as innocently guilty
And highly undeserving as He says you should be
Yes, this is what you must deal with
As a subject of the #1 Narcissist
So just know that you’re on your own in all this
Precious Princess

From Kelly’s third book of poetry, The Riddle and the Dedication II

© 2014, Kelly Miller

KELLY MILLER is a fine artist and creative writer. Her art concentration is painting and her favorite writing genre is poetry. Kelly has been a professional artist since 2008 and an author since 2015. Her work can be found on,, and She’s have written three books entitled The Riddle and the Dedication, The Green Maze, and The Riddle and the Dedication II. Kelly says, ” I am excited to become a part of your creative community and share my poetry with you.”

Frame It

in high definition people take photos,
paint pictures of emptiness.

Ensure the image is pin sharp,
Every detail of blank space captured.

Many pixelled selfie. A landscape
without land. A panorama of stillness.

It has the highest click rate online,
a million likes and shares.

People wish to buy it, blow it up
for their walls, print the image on mugs.

It becomes a meme, an emoji.
Nothing is celebrated.
Frame It (A World Where 2)

in high definition people take photos,
paint pictures of emptiness.

Ensure the image is pin sharp,
Every detail of blank space captured.

Many pixelled selfie. A landscape
without land. A panorama of stillness.

It has the highest click rate online,
a million likes and shares.

People wish to buy it, blow it up
for their walls, print the image on mugs.

It becomes a meme, an emoji.
Nothing is celebrated.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

Our Insanity

is healthy. Hurt others,
hurt yourself. Hospitals

widen wounds. Firemen
are firestarters. Doctors

avidly spread disease.
Dementia is encouraged.

Helpfulness and reasoned action
is criminal. Thought for others

will get you referred to a psychiatrist.
Multiple personality is encouraged.

Not knowing who you are is wellbeing.
Celebrate murder, envy, greed, selfishness.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

I Borrow

distortions. I want to look
like her or him, so I can be

her or him. I buy their perfume,
their makeup to look a million dollars.

I want to be distorted into them.
Only by doing this can I be true

to myself, and who I am. Plastic
surgery would make me feel better.

I could be younger, fresher more vibrant.
Adverts tell me this, because I’m not.

Adverts tell you how to distort yourself
into who you are. Are you with me?

© 2019, Paul Brookes

Must Be Shiny (A World Where 2)

This apple, your skin.
This car, this screen.

See yourself in them.
All buffed into mirrors.

These windows. This door.
Folk wear sunglasses always.

Brightness means brand new.
Eyes must sparkle.

Coffins burnished. Wars
between levels of bright.

Highly polished means highly skilled,
means sharp as glass, witty as stainless.

Born bright, live bright, die bright.
Gloom is dullness is ignorant.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

Her Tongue

an unbroken red apple.

She rubs it on her inner thigh
till it gleams into a mirror.

Inspects her reflection
in the apple mirror.

Hungry she breaks the mirror
with her teeth. Sweetness

In her mouth makes her smile.
Her reflection is not poisonous.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

Are Complete

We had our time to be made
whole, and perhaps thought we were
only part of what we could be,

find an image of what we could be,
and ignore the scary one that looks
back from the mirror because

it is all we don’t want to see,
so drape a silk scarf, or cardboard
over it, make it a partial likeness.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

Soil Is A Mirror

we plant our needs in
we can see ourselves
in its grains
as it feeds the want
of our mouths

we admire ourselves
in its smooth curves
the way it flatters
our aging shapes
smooths wrinkles

as we tumble
on its glassy surface
shafts of light pierce
its dark skin
and we see ourselves
as shadows that play

upon grains of sand
fused into mystery.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

Prolific Yorkshire Poet, Paul Brookes

FYI: Paul Brookes, a stalwart participant in The Poet by Day Wednesday Writing Prompt, is running an ongoing series on poets, Wombwell Rainbow Interviews. Connect with Paul if you’d like to be considered for an interview. Visit him, enjoy the interviews, get introduced to some poets who may be new to you, and learn a few things.

The Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jamie Dedes

  • Paul’s Amazon Page U.S. HERE
  • Paul’s Amazon Page U.K. HERE

More poems by Paul at Michael Dickel’s Meta/ Phore(e) /Play

Every time she took a step towards him, he took two away
‘stay at a distance’ the silent message cut across flat space
every time she lost grace but ‘Man is Master’ He commands
‘he has been taught to’, not obey nor cooperate nor guide

the new car, first day on road, hit a child, blood on the bonnet
and shirt cuff, then continuously hit other objects till the top
went from cherry to white, ‘I know how to drive,it’s the other
person’s fault’ running across the road without looking,head in air

‘Bring me my mirror’ tell me how best I look at this age too
no feeling of infirmity,I can sing and dance and eat and drink
‘who says I had the quad bypass’ see I can getup without support
and walk a mile and throw the ball and lift the box full to the brim

this is my room, this, my car, this my flower vase, this my cupboard
I always order chicken for my meals, usually with kebabs and ‘naan’
‘bread?it gets stuck in my throat’, and my timings for eating are regular
why, it is my dinner time and you people are having tea at 7.p.m.’ Uh’

the heat behind her head grew stronger, the spell like ‘mantra woke her up
‘he was praying’ ‘go out go out’ a voice warned, ‘I am with my God’ as I wish’
he said pushing the heater closer, ‘God is One and we all pray to Him, He hears
Alas’ man does not,’not listening is the thing that hurts’ not listening with a sneer’

The eyes, his eyes, fill his needs, all day, ‘pull the shirt down a bit
that is better, I like them longer, cover not the head, looks odd-

and so she became deaf and dumb and heartless and blind and thoughtless
drifting into another world of colorful music countless letters words and lines
what are needs ? what is company? Who needs them anyways, who indeed
see the blue sky, watch the birds fly, mind is the place , to walk between the pines.

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar

Anjum Ji’s sites are:

“POETRY PEACE and REFORM Go Together -Let Us All Strive for PEACE on EARTH for ALL -Let Us Make a Better World -WRITE To Make PEACE PREVAIL.” Anjum Wasim Dar

The Influencer’s Lament

I click a pic to show the world
 The cute outfit that shows my abs
10,000 likes and 100 retweets
It’s confirmed, I’m just so fab!
I send a tweet to show support
 For cleaning up the ocean
300 likes – I hit delete – wtf?
Not enough commotion
I try again, a sassy tweet 
No substance behind my stance
100K likes! A Kim K retweet!
Going viral – here’s my chance!
I know I’m great – I see my stats 
And now I’m getting money
Yet when I turn the iPhone off
My tummy just feels funny
And so I Insta, Tweet and Vlog
 My soul and body baring
50,000 friends like me, me, me
Yet still, I keep despairing…

© 2019, Irma Do

Irma’s site is: I Do Run, And I do a few other things too ….


In my garden there is a reflection pool
surrounded by narcissus
I spend admiring time there
contemplating the me in us.

I do want to know your thoughts
about me and what I think
and if you’re hungry or thirsty
and if you’d make for me a drink

What are your plans for the future
before you answer, here are mine
I hope you don’t mind I canceled
the reservations at that new place to dine

I knew there’d be distraction
you wouldn’t focus on yours truly
and what’s the use of spending the money
when we could stay home and be unruly

You’re such a trooper to understand
and always put me first
which of course is where I belong
otherwise it would a curse

to live with someone thinking less of himself
pretending humility
remember there’s no I in us
and also no YOU in ME.

© 2019, Deb y Felio

Deb’s site is: Writer’s Journey

. type of love .

was hoping to garden yesterday, clear the ground,
it was a challenge, with all that rain. so we
mended things, with love and string.

it is a challenge, 52 , to even think and google

many types, immeasurable, not three nor for all
of us. yet those of us who do, may trust blindly,
childishly love our toys, cherish home, hold

i looked up, that does not mean i love you.

© 2019, Sonja Benskin Mesher

. letter to a friend . eight .

it has been a while since we spoke.

even now, you will not receive this letter,
along with others not sent.

some went away to exhibition, while others remain in my head.

it is the rule, no contact. today is cooler, we change the clocks soon.

i suppose you are nearly retired, yet i have lost track.

even so, i reflect on what i have done, i ask, what have i done?

it lingers in the past with no judgement here, they are good friends.
we may ask what have you done, yet it does not matter now.

all things pass.

i shall occasionally write, and never send.

no contact.



© 2019, Sonja Benskin Mesher

~ winter food ~

there was no fanfare,
no procession, no proclamation,
as i hit the button, no exclaimation
as i changed my life. as if no one
noticed, and if i am right, they
probably didn’t.

didn’t see as i drove the valley,
didn’t protest, or speak in tongues,
did not see the little things.

we bought winter food.


© 2019, Sonja Benskin Mesher


did you notice the different weaves,
the names, the celtic not. have you

heard the language, problems arising,
too long spent driving. two of them
work well, one is new paper
that will not ash the flame.

will you remember them, narcussus,
small people who suffer?

i will send their photograph.

This is great. This is fantastic.
A distance up the beach
There are us
Shouting in the waves, ‘me-me’
And I feel someone grab my hand
Narcissism rising, a poem want to swim,
Then how could I stop loving you? YEAH
I don’t want you to think I am imagining a world without you.

© 2019, Sonja Benskin Mesher

Sonja’s sites are:

This is great. This is fantastic.
A distance up the beach
There are us
Shouting in the waves, ‘me-me’
And I feel someone grab my hand
Narcissism rising, a poem want to swim,
Then how could I stop loving you? YEAH
I don’t want you to think I am imagining a world without you.

© 2019, Pali Raj


Raanana, December 7, 2017

Back in the days when metaphors were taken literally
And myths were news hot off the minstrel’s breast
It was sung that Narcissus was transfixed
By the beauty of his reflection in a pond
And fell in, drowning
But the truth was that he wrote a poem
That drew a tear from the cheek of a young maiden
And was enamored with his reflection in her tear,
Then the skies became grey and bloated, letting go
Their raindrops which poor Narcissus saw his image
In each and every one,
Then he saw himself in every poem he read
(Everyone knows there’s more poems
Than raindrops in the sky)
He went crazy chasing every poem ever written
As well as those are yet to be,
And everyone knows that going crazy
Is far worse than drowning.

from Mike’s third book of poetry, Bemused

(c) 2017, Mike Stone

Mike’s website is HERE.

Call of the Whippoorwill is Mike Stone’s fourth book of poetry, It contains all new poems covering the years from 2017 to 2019. The poetry in this book reflects the unique perspectives and experiences of an American in Israel. The book is a smorgasbord of descriptions, empathies, wonderings, and questionings. It is available on Kindle and if you have Kindle Unlimited you can download it as part of your membership. I did.  Recommended. / J.D.



Recent in digital publications: 
* Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019
* From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems)(July 2019)
* Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review (July 2019)
Upcoming in digital publications:
* The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice (August 2019)

A busy though bed-bound poet, writer, former columnist and the former associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Levure littéraireRamingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, HerStry, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander CoveI Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play, Woven Tale PressThe Compass Rose and California Woman.

I run The Poet by Day, a curated info hub for poets and writers. I founded The Bardo Group/Beguines, a virtual literary community and publisher of The BeZine of which I am the founding and managing editor. Among others, I’ve been featured on The MethoBlog, on the Plumb Tree’s Wednesday Poet’s Corner, and several times as Second Light Live featured poet.

Email me at for permissions or commissions.