Activists fight for release of 21-year-old undocumented artist detained by ICE in Daly City

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As communities prepare for possible ICE raids, activists in San Francisco are fighting for the release of a 21-year-old undocumented immigrant, who they say was arrested in Daly City earlier this year during a traffic stop and turned over to ICE.

Jose Armando Escobar Lopez, who goes by the name Armando, is currently held in an ICE detention facility in Bakersfield. His attorney says he was stopped in late May by Daly City police during a traffic stop and was then turned over to ICE. They say he could be deported as soon as next week.

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"I don't know what's going to happen after this," Armando's girlfriend Krisia Mendoza told ABC7 News. "He goes back to El Savador, I'm afraid someone will kill him or someone will do something to him."

Asked if they believe Daly City police violated sanctuary state laws during the arrest. Jessica Yamane, an attorney at La Raza Community Center in San Francisco, said it's something they're looking into.

"I think that's under investigation right now," Yamane, who is representing Armando, said, "And I think there's a very real possibility of this."

Pail Prince, a spokesperson for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, confirmed that ICE officials arrested Armando in May and is in their custody pending deportation to El Salvador. He said in 2017 an immigration judge ordered Armando be removed from the country.

Daly City police referred all questions to the city attorney's office.

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Daly City City Attorney Rose Zimmerman said she is aware of the incident where ICE was involved followed a traffic stop and is looking into it. She said she does not know all the facts yet but called it an "isolated incident."

"This doesn't happen in Daly City, " Zimmerman said, adding that the city follows SB54, California's sanctuary state law which largely prohibits police from working with immigration officials, except under certain circumstances.

Zimmerman said she does not know if those exceptions apply in Armando's case.

Mendoza said Armando has no criminal record.

According to friends, Armando was a painter and artist who came to the U.S. from El Salvador as an unaccompanied minor seeking refuge from domestic violence and threats from gangs.

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Mendoza said she has received 25 love letters from Armando while he has been detained. One she showed us was intricately drawn with doves, love locks and a tearful eye.

On Friday, activists from the Asian Law Caucus called ICE to demand his release.

"We're going to fight back," Sarah Lee, a community advocate at the Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus, said. "Just like Krisia...that's what we're going to do in response to these raids and in response to Krisia and Armando."
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