Ibrahim Cetindemir Cordon

Ibrahim Ramades Cetindemir Cordon, 28, is based in Williston, N.D.

A photojournalist based in North Dakota was detained in jail Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and released Wednesday morning. 

Ibrahim Ramades Cetindemir Cordon, 28, was traveling from Seattle to Williston, North Dakota, on an Amtrak train when he was stopped by border patrol officers searching the train at the Havre stop on Monday. Officers questioned Cetindemir, who is originally from Guatemala, but left when the train had to continue onto the next stop. 

At the Amtrak stop in Malta, border patrol officers boarded again, and questioned him just after 4 p.m. Cetindemir showed officers his work permit and a driver's license while on the train, Cetindemir said. He said he was a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient, and his DACA status was valid until May 2020. 

A spokesperson for Amtrak said he didn't know how often border patrol searches Amtrak trains, but that the company complies with federal law, which says that authorities may search a vehicle, including a train, for aliens within 100 miles of the border. Malta is just under 60 miles from the Canadian border. 

Cetindemir was detained under the Immigration and Nationality Act 212, inadmissible aliens, and 237, deportable aliens, for an outstanding deportation order for Cetindemir from 2014. The order was from overstaying his visa in 2014, before he was granted DACA status, Cetindemir told the Billings Gazette. Since then he has renewed his DACA status in 2016 and in 2018. 

Originally from Guatemala, Cetindemir immigrated to the U.S. when he was about 13 years old with his mother and younger sister. Since then he's lived in the U.S. Now, the freelance photographer is based in Williston. He has had work published in Outdoor Magazine, Matador Network, Patagonia, REI and others.

When he was arrested Cetindemir didn't feel angry or worried he would be deported, he said. He thought he'd be detained for a few hours while they checked his DACA status, and he knew he doesn't have a criminal record.  

Cetindemir was taken into custody by border patrol and held Monday in Malta, according to a border patrol officer at the Malta Border Patrol Station. 

Once in custody he said border patrol told him he would be deported and that he wouldn't be able to speak to a lawyer or judge. It wasn't until he was booked into jail that his situation started to sink in. 

He was transferred Tuesday afternoon to Cascade County Detention Center in Great Falls. He arrived just after 3 p.m., and the jail had him under an "immigration hold," according to Cascade County Cpl. Freiling and the ICE detainee database. (The corporal refused to give his first name).

"It was a bit nerve-wracking walking into jail because I didn’t know what to expect," Cetindemir said. "Jail was not a pleasant place, (but) it wasn’t a really negative experience. If anything I learned from it." 

Despite the detainment, he said border patrol treated him professionally and respectfully, and throughout the process Cetindemir stayed relatively calm, he said. The adventurer and outdoor photographer is used to high-stakes situations, he said. 

"I’m a climber and faced with a difficult situation, I'm stable," he said. "I kind of tend to keep my cool during stressful situations."

Cetindemir stayed overnight at the county jail. Early Wednesday morning he met with an ICE agent and was released. The agent told him he could legally be deported, but since he was a DACA recipient with no criminal record they were choosing to let him stay in the country, Cetindemir said.

"What really scared me was the fact that I was being arrested when I have DACA," he said. "That’s setting such a dangerous precedent for everyone else that has DACA. That's extremely dangerous because it doesn't make any sense when you're under protected status to be detained like that."

He was released Wednesday morning from Cascade County. He planned to stay overnight in Great Falls before going to Malta to collect some personal items at the border patrol station. From there he'll return home to Williston. 

"I always try to stay out of trouble and I’m going to continue to stay out of trouble," he said. 

The only time Cetindemir lost his cool was while on the phone with his friend, Nathan Hooks, Cetindemir said. Cetindemir had visited Hooks in Seattle before boarding the Amtrak train for North Dakota. Hooks told Cetindemir over the phone of the social media response to Cetindemir's detainment and the support he was receiving. 

"The one time I broke down was when I was on the phone and my friend was telling me that all these people were trying to help me, and were making phone calls," he said.

The social media response to Cetindemir's was in part from his plea for help. In a Reddit post Cetindemir asked for help hours after he was detained by border patrol. Soon, a YouTube video taken by a fellow passenger circulated, and a Facebook group began to bombard border patrol with phone calls, immigration lawyers, and local organizations asking for help on Cetindemir's behalf.

Hooks said he was doing everything to help his friend. He got Cetindemir's family, who is currently living in Guatemala, in contact with an immigration lawyer, Christopher Flann out of Shepherd, but Cetindemir was already on his way out of jail. Cetindemir has retained Flann’s services.

“Yes, I speak Spanish, and have family in Guatemala, but my memories are vague childhood memories from that place,” Cetindemir said. “For me, the U.S. this is my home, and it kind of sucks to be in a place that you call home but that home doesn’t want you.”

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