#FreeYoel Protesters Arrested on Poydras Street


Editor’s Note: This piece was updated 9/9 at 7:20 p.m. to include a statement from NOWCRJ Executive Director Ursula Price

On Monday, September 9, members and supporters of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ) blocked traffic during a protest on Poydras Street in an attempt to plead for the compassionate parole of Yoel Alonso Leal.

According to NOWCRJ, Yoel is a husband and father who has suffered greatly while being shuttled through various Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers over the past 10 months. During his internment, Yoel has suffered from gout attacks for which he received inadequate treatment, eventually resulting in the need for him to spend over eight months in a wheelchair – until detention center personnel took his wheelchair from him. The condition has become so debilitating that at times he is forced to depend on other detainees to help him eat, bathe, and wash his undergarments.

At another point in his internment, Yoel contracted a severe case of pneumonia which almost killed him. After several respiratory emergencies, Yoel was finally allowed to see a doctor. At that time, the doctor found a tumor in his lung. ICE refused to allow him to receive treatment and has also refused to release him on parole so that he can seek treatment while staying with his wife and two children in Florida.

During the protests on Poydras Street on Monday, several protestors were arrested, including to a doctor who came to speak on behalf of Yoel, insisting that he deserves cancer treatment.

“ICE is trying to deport Yoel because he’s evidence of the human impact of eliminating parole for asylum seekers. It’s no coincidence they moved to deport him one day after a judge ruled against ICE in a lawsuit to restore parole in which Yoel was a lead plaintiff. We came out today to demand that our leaders hold this rogue agency accountable. We can’t allow ICE to use deportation as a legal defense,” said NOWCRJ Executive Director Ursula Price in a statement.


Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of Big Easy Magazine. Her work has also been featured in publications such as Wander N.O. More, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_

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