Fake News: Making Folk Heroes Out of Rogues



The Daily Beast is crying foul over U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) arrest of Rolando Gramajo Reyes. Reyes, who is lauded as a community organizer, invited ICE personnel to attend a “know your rights” presentation for “people worried about being arrested due to their immigration status.”

Shortly thereafter, ICE arrested him.

Although no ICE personnel attended the presentation, Reyes’ friends, family and attorney believe that he was punished by the U.S. government for his advocacy on behalf of Houston’s Guatemalan community. They feel that he may have “unintentionally goaded” ICE into arresting him. And, according to the Beast, his supporters feel that “the potential deportation of the father of five is disgraceful.”

In reality, what is disgraceful is the corporate media’s coverage of this story. The New York Times, the Houston Chronicle and Newsweek also ran laudatory pieces on Reyes. All of them frame Mr. Reyes as some kind of latter-day folk hero.

But Reyes isn’t the martyr that the press makes him out to be. Buried amidst the praise in the other accounts is passing mention of the following key facts:

  • According to the Times – several hundred words into its story – he came to the United States on a tourist visa in 1994 and overstayed his authorized period of admission.
  • While residing unlawfully in the U.S., Reyes pleaded guilty to burglary of a motor vehicle sometime in 1998 or 1999.
  • He was deported in 2004.
  • Shortly after being deported, he unlawfully re-entered the U.S. in violation of 8 U.S. Code § 1326.

In an effort to push the narrative of Reyes as victim, the versions of his story published by well-known media outlets omit or gloss over important details about why he’s being deported. But, the why is the meat of this story.

Reyes is a visa over stayer. A criminal. And a criminal re-entrant. ICE wasn’t “goaded” into arresting him, it was simply doing its job, enforcing our immigration laws. And he isn’t being chastised for anything other than his own disregard for American law.

What’s more, he received ample due process. Multiple accounts note that he pleaded guilty to the burglary charge – probably in exchange for a lighter sentence. And per CNN, he appealed his original deportation and lost.

So, despite all the verbal legerdemain marshaled in Mr. Reyes’ defense, his story is really a simple one. Despite all the wishful thinking upon the part of “woke” open borders activists, it is still illegal to enter the United States without authorization – and it’s a crime to come back here after you’ve been deported. So, if you are living in the United States illegally, and thumbing your nose at the system, don’t be surprised if ICE arrests you.

About Author

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Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.

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