Video: A Case of Mistaken Identity, Then the Death of an ICE Detainee

Portela believes Mejia-Bonilla shouldn’t have been in the jail in the first place.

A native of El Salvador, he had been living in this country since 1993, Portela said. For many years, Mejia-Bonilla had been using the name Rolando Meza Espinoza, who was supposedly an immigrant from Honduras. When he was arrested, immigration enforcement officers were trying to find a different man by that same name who was supposed to be deported in 2005, Portela said.

The two Espinozas looked different — one is taller and darker — and their fingerprints don’t match, Portela said. But the Espinoza they did find was also here illegally. Mejia-Bonilla, aka Espinoza, once had protected status, which is given to immigrants who faced violence if they returned to their home country. But he lost it in 2015 because he had been convicted of driving while intoxicated in 2009 and aggravated driving while intoxicated in 2014 on Long Island, according to ICE officials.

In previous years, immigration officers would have likely let him go because they arrested only those they were specifically looking for. Under new guidance from the Trump administration, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have been given leeway to arrest any undocumented immigrants they encounter.

Portela said ICE officers knew they had the wrong person, but that “they did a background check and realized they had enough to hold him.”

Mejia-Bonilla lived with Darleny Rivera, their 8-year-old daughter and two step-daughters ages 10 and 12.

After his arrest, Rivera went to work at a candy packaging factory to support the family, and she has relied on her church, family and friends to watch her children. Mejia-Bonilla had two other children — ages 17 and 21 — who live in the U.S. and a 25-year-old son in El Salvador.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 2702 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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