As evidenced by the ongoing “revitalization” of new storefronts populating the 13th street and 6th Avenue west corner in downtown Bradenton, native Bradentonians Keith Nasewicz and Ben Greene of Oscura Cafe and Bar are hoping to make Oscura the hub of local, craft culture.
“I think we’re trying to create a cultural outlet for people here, something for the artists, and the musicians, and the people who are interested in that,” said Nasewicz. “We want to be the flagship for it and see where it grows, and hopefully we’re trying to get this street really developed and turned into the ‘mecca’ of trend and art and music for 13th street in Bradenton.”
Nasewicz and Greene’s journey towards building their own “mecca” in Bradenton began years before in 2005, as the two Manatee High School students would orbit the now-closed V Town Surf and Skate III skateboard shop where Greene worked. The two cite the V Town’s casual meeting spot atmosphere as a precursor to what is now Oscura.
The two spent years apart as Nasewicz went off to college to study psychology, briefly flirting with becoming a psychologist before pursuing a photography career that rekindled his creativity. Greene’s post-high school years were spent traveling nationwide with a touring “metal-core” band at 19, where his curiosity in the music business inspired him to start his own music label.
After his time in the music business, Greene’s interest in business grew into becoming a full-fledged serial entrepreneur in recent years, where he launched several startups locally. Nasewicz meanwhile was burning out on the heavy traveling of his photography career, where he later transitioned to launching tech startups of his own centered around application development.
According to Nasewicz, it was around this time Greene approached him about starting a business in Bradenton.
“Growing up, I mean, you would hear it so often your friends saying, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to get out of Bradenton, Bradenton’s lame, there’s nothing to do here,’ when in reality there’s so much opportunity here,” Greene said. “We have some of the best beaches in the world, we still have that small-town feel, everybody’s friendly, everybody’s cool here. And so coming back to that as an adult and seeing its potential was exciting,” Greene added.
In conceptualizing their vision for what would become eventually become Oscura as their business, Nasewicz and Greene knew that they wanted to start a cultural trend for other businesses in the area to blossom.
“When we did our research we found that a meeting place, something like this, where there’s more of a curated experience; whether it’s the high quality of the coffee or the food or the drinks that we offer, things like that, and it developed more into a coffee shop as the primary focus,” Nasewicz said.
When trying to figure out what they would eventually name this new business, the idea of coffee as a ‘dark matter’ that gives energy that “binds the universe” became a prominent theme. Greene credits Nasewicz with the trending idea of changing the language, where they discovered the Latin translation of dark matter as “materia obscura.”
Formerly the location of Foster Drugs and Surgical Supplies that bookended the 13th street west corner for over fifty years, Oscura’s bright white exterior storefront and DIY aesthetic was self-financed and designed by Greene and Nasewicz themselves. According to Greene, Nasewicz’s preoccupation with interior design has been evident since the beginning of their friendship.
“He will straight up be reading an interior design catalog when we’re playing Call of Duty or just goofin’ off,” Greene said. ” He’s just so into that and so good at it.”
Oscura’s DIY aesthetic also influence their approach to their ever-changing menu. Greene and Nasewicz do not have formal culinary training but credit their research in traveling to the cities on the forefront of contemporary restaurant and coffee culture. From experimenting with the coffee soda to new tasting and pairing menus as well serving beer and wine trivia nights for the over 21 crowds during the evening, Greene and Nasewicz explained that Oscura’s goal of being the craft destination for Bradenton includes a plethora of upcoming events.
“We want to develop our own market in our area, something new for the craft person to get plugged in with,” Greene said. “We’re definitely trying to shake things up, get people excited.”
In looking towards future expansion, including an outdoor wine and beer garden, to partnerships with local breweries for Oscura-brand beer and friendly city flea market on Feb. 23, Greene and Nasewicz praise their longtime friendship and their connection to the local business community for Oscura’s continued success.
“If you’re looking to start a business, surround yourself with the people who have the experiences and have the strengths, and realize you have weaknesses that you need those people as a team to help you with,” Nasewicz said. “And work with your community, don’t fight them. That’s a big part of it.”
For more on Oscura Cafe and Bar’s list of events and updates, visit Oscuracafe.com.
On Jan. 17, 2018 in Largo, Florida, a press conference was held by Tampa Bay law enforcement agencies to announce a new inter-governmental law enforcement partnership with ICE called a “basic ordering agreement.”
(Bradenton, Florida)| “The people that were doing these lawsuits were arguing, ‘Oh no, the state or the local jail doesn’t have jurisdiction to hold them,’”
explained Adriana Guzman-Rouselle, an immigration attorney who has served Manatee County since 2005, on the liability exposure felt by local law enforcement agencies that inspired ICE’s “basic ordering agreement.” “The way to go around this was, ‘Okay, we’re going to hire those jails as providers of the service,” said Guzman-Rouselle.
According to Tampa Bay Online, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, also a representative of the National Sheriff’s Association, had been working with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement to develop the contract that was reportedly planned be piloted by 17 Tampa Bay area law enforcement agencies.
The “basic ordering agreement” or BOA was described in a press release by ICE on January 17, “an existing procurement tool for acquiring a substantial, but presently unknown quantity of supplies or services.” The housing agreement was designed to afford liability protection for local law enforcement agencies housing “illegal criminal aliens in their jails and prisons.” ICE would then reimburse the service provider or law enforcement agency for the costs up to 48-hours of detention of an individual detainee. These actions would all take place after an individual is released from custody, having been charged with state-level criminal charges.
Also in attendance at the press conference was Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells, who according to public record signed the agreement with ICE on the Jan. 19. Sheriff Wells commented to Hannah Morse of the Bradenton Herald on Jan. 18 regarding the agreement, “We’re just trying to keep our community safe, and when you have a criminal illegal alien who has been committing crimes in our community, they need to be held accountable.”
Media Controversy Surrounding the Agreement
Since the announcement of the joint law enforcement program in January, the agreement has generated media controversy. According to Guzman-Rouselle, the national media has been complicit in conflating the fears of the undocumented community in recent months. “Even if you are undocumented, if you comply with the law, you will be okay,” Guzman-Rouselle explained. “When you start doing things you are not supposed to, you encounter problems.”
In March, the Tampa Bay times reported of local undocumented immigrants seeking retainer agreements amid fears of detention and deportation by ICE. In April, 88.5 WNMF reported of a “heated debate” between Pinellas Sheriff Gualtieri and immigrant rights activists on the implementation of the agreement as a pretext to detain undocumented individuals that were initially arrested on charges of driving without a license or identification. April also marked the beginning of the controversial “zero-tolerance policy” implemented by the Department of Justice along the southwest border.
Recent History of Immigration Enforcement in Manatee County
“I haven’t seen any changes, you know, just in paper,” Guzman-Rouselle said of her recent legal experiences with the BOA in comparison to other programs like 287g and Secure Communities. According to public record documents available on online via freedom of information act requests from ina287.org, Manatee County has been actively participating in joint partnerships with ICE since signing a “memorandum of agreement” or “MOA” in July 2008.
In Dec. 2006, former Manatee County Sheriff Charles B. Wells, father of current Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells, sent a written request to ICE to participate in the 287g program in order to train corrections officers in response to what Wells claimed was a large population of undocumented aliens who, “end up in our jails for everything from traffic-related crimes to homicide.” Charlie Wells successor, former Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube signed the agreement in Jun. 2008, only to request a withdrawal from the 287g Program in Sept. 2009.
Steube cited changes ICE made to the MOA requiring law enforcement agencies to provide certified interpreters that were, “cost prohibitive under MCSO’s current budget.” The hiatus was brief, as the Sheriff’s Office joined the Secure Communities program in Oct. 2009 until the Obama administration’s sun-setting of the program in November 2014. The Trump administration reactivated the program via executive order in Jan. 2017. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is currently not participating in the program.
According to the Booking Manual procedures provided by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) Detainers and Notifications” was implemented on Mar. 8 2018, defining the department’s role as a “service provider to the DHS ICE pursuant to the BOA and authorized by federal law to hold alien detainees when all requirements for detention are met.”
“The narrow service we provide to ICE is detention for 48 hours after release from custody on local criminal charges, and that is only done when proper documentation is submitted by ICE for detention of a particular subject,” according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office General Counsel, Eric Werbeck. “ICE then has 48 hours to pick the subject up from our custody. If they don’t arrive within that time period, the subject is released. All of the subjects being detained will have been arrested for state criminal charges,” Werbeck said.
Since the agreement’s implementation in March, the Sheriff’s Office has held 32 individuals as of June, 14, according to a public record. Of the 32 individuals detained for the maximum of 48-hour period, 25 have been transferred to ICE custody. The criminal charges of detainees that were transferred to ICE ranged from battery and domestic violence, DUI, attempted murder and controlled substance. The individuals released from the detention ranged from unanswered court summonses, driving without a license, or probation violations.
Elizabeth M. Nicholson, ICE Community Relations Officer for Central and Northern Florida, stated that the local field office does not have an accounting of individual detainers at the county level, but pointed to 2017 fiscal year removal statistics for Florida. According to the ICE Fiscal Year data for Florida from 2016-2017, there was a 14-percent increase in removals.
Peter Lombardo, a local criminal defense attorney located in Bradenton who has had clients from the undocumented community, believes that the overall majority of undocumented criminal defendants do not get deported or jailed in Manatee County. “We’ll go to court and its usually misdemeanors, and we’ll go in, they’ll plead guilty, they’ll either get a fine or probation or whatever, and they just walk out the courtroom with me,” Lombardo said.
“I definitely believe that what people have to understand, sometimes, it’s not like ICE is looking for them,” Guzman-Rouselle said. Rouselle explained further that she believes that substance abuse in the undocumented community invites attention from authorities. A study titled, “Undocumented Immigration, Drug Problems, and Driving Under the Influence in the United States, 1990-2014” released in August of 2017 by the American Public Health Association concluded that there was “no significant relationship between increased undocumented immigration and DUI deaths.”
The Trump Administration and Interior Immigration Enforcement
In 2015, the New York Times reported from the campaign trail that Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric was scolded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush as “extraordinarily ugly.” In April 2017, The American Bar Journal hosted a legal panel in Miami that emphasized the Trump administration’s focus on criminal immigration enforcement.
Ariel Ruiz Soto, an Associate Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute who co-authored a May 2018 MPI report titled, “Revving Up the Deportation Machinery: Enforcement under Trump and the Pushback,” believes that the creation of federal BOA’s by the Department of Homeland Security and ICE are meant to incentivize participation of local law enforcement agencies who are concerned about prohibitive costs and legal blowback.
“Rather than incentivizing new participation in immigration enforcement, BOA’s have facilitated access to local law enforcement agencies which had considered cooperating more closely with ICE but had common concerns regarding the cost and liability of holding an immigrant beyond the time they were charged to serve for their criminal convictions,” Soto said.
“The practices of the current administration, however, can and must also be traced to the crime politics of liberal Democrats that shifted the discourse on unauthorized migration,” writes Patricia Macia-Rojas in a 2018 article featured in the Journal of Migration and Huma Security. Amanda Frost wrote in a Nov. 2017 article in the Iowa Law Review, that the legacy of the Obama administration’s removal or forbearance model of immigration enforcement and lack of congressional response to immigration enforcement, should prompt alternative enforcement strategies in the future.
According to Guzman-Rouselle, an urgent problem facing Manatee’s undocumented community is being able to parse fact from fiction by finding legitimate sources of legal help for friends and family. “Mostly what I have seen is notary fraud, telling people things, ‘Oh no, let’s apply for asylum, let’s apply for this or let’s apply for that’,” Guzman-Rouselle said. “They don’t understand the consequences of doing one of those applications, that eventually, they are going to put you in front of an immigration judge when you didn’t have to be there.”
For more information on the Manatee County Basic Ordering Agreement via the National Sheriff’s Association, click here.
Click here for ACLU’s fact sheet on the Basic Ordering Agreement.
“When people had DACA, they felt certainty with their status, they were more willing to talk about how they felt, what they experienced,” Castaneda explained. “As soon as the DACA recision was announced, people shutdown,” she added.
The project began in Sept. 2017 with the aim of investigating the social and emotional well-being of undocumented young adults living in Central Florida and across the United States. The legal battle to decide the uncertain fate of DACA recipients is still being waged in U.S District Courts. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that DACA protections should remain in place, and the government must continue to accept new applications.
According to Dr. Castaneda, the goal of the project’s research is to inform policymakers and the public on the social implications of undocumented young adults who are living in a transitional status.
“We’ve talked to people who are afraid to enter long-term relationships because they don’t know what’s next for them, and I think that really impacts their ability be full members of society and express themselves as humans,” Castaneda said.
Castaneda is a co-creator of the project along with University of South Florida Assoc. Prof. of Sociology Dr. Elizabeth Aranda and former USF faculty and now Assoc. Prof. of Sociology at George Washington University, Dr. Elizabeth Vaquera. The three professors met at the University of South Florida in 2007, and all shared a common interest in immigrant families, youth, and incorporation into society. According to Castaneda, The National Science Foundation awarded their project proposal in June of last year and provided the perfect opportunity to combine their research efforts into an interdisciplinary focus on “an urgent issue In their own backyard” in Central Florida. The project has also extended an outreach partnership with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, where the researchers themselves take part in events and clinics held by the coalition.
In Castaneda’s and the researchers’ view of their preliminary findings, participants have shown a variety of responses, ranging from high levels of emotional distress, depression, and suicidality to high levels of political engagement and activism. According to a Jan. 2017 article from the National Institute of Mental Health, child of immigrants born in the U.S. may have a higher risk for mental disorders than their parents. According to the Pew Research from Sept. 2017, two-thirds of DACA recipients are ages 25 or younger.
According to Castaneda, the key for Central Florida to understand the plight of its undocumented immigrant youth is how ingrained they already are in the community.
“The key thing to understand is that what passport you are holding and how valid your visa is, it’s not that it’s not important, but for the everyday experience of living in our communities here in Central Florida, it’s not as important,” Castaneda said. “These are people who have jobs in all sectors of society,” she added.
As the project heads into the summer, their recruiting push is expecting an increase in participants, with the overall goal of reaching 140 individual experiences for the project’s total.
“More and more people in the US are living in a family where there is at least one undocumented person,” Castaneda said. “Immigration doesn’t just affect the immigrant, it affects their family members and their communities,” she added.
For more information on how to get involved with the Immigrant Youth Project, click here.
Nowrasteh summarized their results in his Wednesday tweet.
Nowrasteh’s findings on the 287 (g) program counter Trump administration claims of a correlation between undocumented immigration and criminal activity. According to Washington Post on April 2, the administration is planning to implement a deportation quota system for federal immigration judges that link to their performance reviews. President Trump also tweeted on April 4 accusing U.S Democrats of upholding Obama Era border policies to allow for unchecked illegal immigration that would lead to an uptick in crime. In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act added section 287 (g) to the act, where ICE and local law enforcement could enter into Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), enabling ICE to designated local officers to perform immigration enforcement functions. The administration expanded the ICE program via executive order in January of 2017.
“President Trump’s reactivation of 287(g) task force agreements has prompted us to evaluate how this program has affected crime rates and police clearance rates in the past,” writes Nowrasteh and Forrester in their conclusion of the Cato Working Paper. “We find no statistically significant elasticity between immigrants deported through the 287(g) program and the index crime rates under multiple specifications. Similarly, we find no significant elasticity between crime clearance rates and 287(g) deportations. Combined, these results demonstrate that the 287(g) program did not reduce crime in North Carolina,” they concluded.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has provided via public records request the agency’s transactional data of individuals held under the “basic ordering agreement” or BOA with U.S Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE). According to their data which accounted for individuals held under the agreement’s parameters from the initial start date to June 30, only one out of a total of six individuals was transferred to ICE custody.
The inclusion of their data adds to a total of now seven, BOA-participating Florida law enforcement agencies as reported last month. In recent developments according to Krystel Knowles of Spectrum News 13, Brevard County’s BOA was an indicator of the eventual passage of a county commission resolution banning “sanctuary cities” policies.
Brevard County commissioner John Tobia was quoted in a follow up piece by Spectrum News 13’s Matt Fernandez on the passage of the resolution, stating that the resolution ” prevents future sheriffs or politicians from failing the shining example of Sheriff Ivey and interfere and fail to cooperate with federal assets of law enforcement,” while mentioning the threat of the Trump administration to withhold federal funding as an additional justification.
According to USA Today from August 1, a federal judge from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Trump Administration’s attempt to withhold federal funding via the January 2017 executive order was unconstitutional.
For more information and updates on the BOA, click here.
“In one of the cases that I have right now, the person was from Palestine for example, and Israel would not take him back. So, he’s been on a removal order for about 11 years.” Yakzan said. “The second I read the decision I called him and told him this is huge for you, we need to move to reopen your case,” he added.
According to Yakzan, it is a critical window for undocumented immigrants with aggravated felony charges who are not currently in removal proceedings in order to petition for a Green Card.
“I don’t know what congress is going to do, this is a big deal. They might actually come back and say well, ‘Here is another definition that might work,’ and that might actually bar some undocumented immigrants from applying for the benefits,” Yakzan said. “Would it help? Absolutely. Would it hurt? We really don’t know, but we’re taking it as a win as immigration litigators,” Yakzan added.
On Monday March 26th, The Intercept posted an article written by reporter Lee Fang, with the headline that implicated that ICE was using private Facebook Data to find and track a criminal suspect that was an unauthorized immigrant, via a public records request filed by The Intercept.
In both asserting that the suspect was an undocumented immigrant and that the ICE officials were using private Facebook data, turned out to be false. The revelation prompted the following retractions to be release by The Intercept on Monday, with the addition of an official statement given by Facebook denying the claims made in the article:
This was not shoddy journalism by Lee, it was an error that I edited into his story. He filed the story accurately and I mistakenly added immigrant to the top of the story. He is on vacation now so couldn’t read it over. It was 100% on me, not on Lee. https://t.co/nK5N330YbJ
You’re opining – not uncharacteristically – in total ignorance. Lee decided to delete his Twitter account days ago because, like so many, he became convinced of its pure, reckless toxicity (your tweet is a nice example). And “due to editing errors” means the errors were not Lee’s
My colleague Lee Fang is being unfairly maligned and smeared because of an editing error. I appreciate @ryangrim‘s honest statement of how the errors occurred and the fact that Lee filed an error-free story that was changed without consulting him. https://t.co/c24Exi6RWT
In the first release of the article written by Intercept Journalist Lee Fang, it appeared that Fang asserted that internal ICE emails showed that in February and March of 2017, ICE agents were coordinating via email to send a “Facebook Business Record” with a local detective from Las Cruces, New Mexico. According to the article, the agents aggregated the data through a “Backend log” on Facebook, where the subjects last point of accessing his account and IP address revealing the subject’s phone number and location of each log in. The email correspondence revealed in the article also alluded to an employee of Palantir Data Analytics potentially aiding in the retrieval of the data, as the company owned by venture capitalist Peter Thiel, has been in contract with ICE since 2014 according to the Intercept. Thiel also serves on Facebook’s board of directors.
The Social Media Timeline of Lee’s Article
(Created by Alexander Michael Buono via Timetoast)
Lee Fang returned to Twitter on March 27 to respond to critics on social media, and gave his take on the course of events while on still on vacation.
“I was out of cell phone service for most of the day yesterday, in a different time zone, and had no idea the piece had been radically changed with information I did not include in my submitted draft and pubbed under my name until many hours after it was up. I was blindsided,” Fang wrote on Twitter.
Oscar J. Portillo-Meza is a local DACA recipient who has dreams of becoming a U.S Secretary of State one day, that is all contingent of course, if he can stay in the country he has called home for the last ten years.
A resident of Bradenton and Bayshore High School Senior while splitting time taking courses at the University of South Florida, Portillo-Meza is an ambitious Florida teenager who immigrant from Honduras with his parents at the age of 7. Portillo-Meza has volunteered with several local organizations such as Unidos Now, The Boxser Diversity Initiative, and the Florida Democratic Party. In recognition for his philanthropic efforts, he was recently awarded the Young Spirit Award by the Manatee Community Foundation as reported in the Bradenton Herald last Tuesday.
In deciding to reveal his undocumented status and become a public advocate for the cause, Portillo Meza wants to prove that the young DACA recipients in America stand for positive change in their local communities. I’m not afraid of anything, I think I could do wonderful things anywhere,” said Portillo-Meza. “It doesn’t matter if there’s some crazy people who wants to like say yeah ‘ I’m gonna call ICE’, yeah okay,” he added.
James A. McBain, a local Bradenton Immigration Attorney of Immigration Law Services of Bradenton, says Dreamers like Portillo-Meza who can prove good moral character have greater pressure to adhere to the law and less legal recourse than average American citizens if they slip up.
“You don’t have to prove it, neither do I,” McBain said. “A small crime isn’t going to affect you guys, but they do affect those kids,” he added.
“My family was undocumented for some years, so we understand the plight of undocumented people,” said Pamela Gomez, an event organizer. “Which has lead into a lot of the work I do with the community in fighting for immigrant rights,” she added.
Tampa Immigration Attorney Ahmad Yakzan explains the change in litigation from the Obama to Trump Era, (below).