Jake Flores is a part-time stand-up comic, podcast host, and self-described “pizza delivery guy” who, in a strange twist of fate, recently found himself debating immigration policy with four Homeland Security agents in his home. The agents paid him an early morning visit last Sunday because of some jokes he tweeted about Cinco de Mayo.
On Saturday, the day of the holiday, which often sees white people acting like idiots, Flores tweeted:
Objectively speaking, a lot of people thought that was funny. Someone tasked with keeping our country safe from terrorists apparently did not.
As frequent chroniclers of ICE’s nefarious campaigns across the country, we wanted to hear what it’s like to have the government wake you up to talk about your tweets and have the feds tell you, in no uncertain terms, that they’ll be reading your sex tweets from here on out.
In a statement to Splinter, ICE Press Secretary Jennifer Elzea confirmed her agency is aware of the tweets and investigating.
“The kind of language expressed in the tweets, even in an allegedly joking manner, is reckless and irresponsible. It potentially puts at risk those who have taken an oath to uphold the law and protect public safety,” she said.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Can you take me through your thinking behind the tweets?
I am an extremely online person. Part of that is arguably an addiction and part of it is because there are all these gatekeepers in entertainment and comedy, so I get a lot of gigs and stuff that way, instead of through traditional channels.
So I have a tendency, if I think of a joke, to just put it online and see what happens, see if it makes my friends laugh. It functions as a scratch pad for me to try things out, think about it later, and maybe work it into a stand-up bit. There’s not one really definite answer to “Why do you tweet,” right? It’s part of my creative process.
What was the initial response from your followers?
I mostly received positive feedback from people who thought it was funny. All of my friends and fans liked it, people were sharing it, which leads me to believe someone who doesn’t like me and was lurking—or a complete stranger—clearly narced.
Tell me how the visit from Homeland Security actually went down after your tweets. Did you have any warning?
So I made this joke on Saturday. I went out that night, went to a concert, came back home, and was asleep on my couch. I woke up and heard someone banging on the door. I was feeling delirious. It’s loud, aggressive banging on this metal door, like BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG. If I had recognized it for what it was, I probably wouldn’t have opened the door, but I thought it must be this repair guy and I wasn’t thinking.
I open the door and there are four guys, and they say “Homeland Security” and hold a badge up like they’re in a movie. I’ve been arrested a lot of times, and I didn’t get the feeling that’s what they were going for because cops are the ones that come in and immediately arrest you and want to assert all this dominance. These were nerds, lanyard guys. They sort of came in and made their statement pretty quickly, and I thought, “I’m either going to get arrested or not.”
Part of it was also that I was hungover and just in this weird state of mind. So they start asking me questions and instead of really being careful, I just started talking to the guy, having a really candid conversation with him. The first thing he said to me was, “You made this statement about ICE, yada yada yada,” and I went, “Oh yeah, I figured that’s why you were here.” He goes, “You understand we’re here because we need to check whether you actually believe these things.” I said no, I’m a comedian, it was a joke, and you know that because you obviously looked me up.
He goes, “Yeah, well, you have a following, you have 10,000 followers on Twitter, someone could’ve seen that and taken it seriously.” I said, “Uh, well, it was a work of fiction. If I’d written a novel or a television show about this idea I was having, would you be busting down my door?” And he said, “Yeah, that’s a good point.” So why are you busting down my door if that’s a good point? He goes, “With 10,000 followers, someone could’ve done something.”
I said, “You know, you don’t kick down Alex Jones’ door. Why don’t you go kick down Roseanne Barr’s door? They have millions of followers and they actually believe these things they’re saying, and they’re actively trying to incite people.” And he goes, “That’s a good point too.” So I don’t understand why this is happening.
The main guy is talking to me—I don’t know his name, I don’t know if he had a warrant—but as he’s talking to me, his three cohorts are taking photos of my apartment. So we have this conversation and they kind of just make it clear that nothing’s going to happen, [but] we’re going to keep an eye on you, which is alarming and annoying, and maybe they’re listening to this phone call right now.
But at the end of it, the weird part is, we start to just get into a conversation about why I don’t like ICE. He asked a couple questions about if I know anyone’s who’s currently being detained by ICE. And I told them like, do you think I would tell you if the answer was yes?
So we get into this sort of philosophical thing about it. And at the end of it, the weirdest thing ever, he goes: “Do you have any questions for me?” like it was a job interview. “Well, yeah, I have so many questions for you,” I said.
I told him I work as a bartender sometimes, and I talk to a lot of cops. I ask them about the Black Lives Matter stuff, and they always have this defense of the police that I find interesting—an argument that’s valid but not accurate. They always say the videos you see of police shootings are outliers, there’s actually a lot of good work police are doing that goes unreported. I don’t believe that argument but I believe the cop believes it.
So I explained this to him, and said the difference between the police and ICE is that the police have a statement mission that, on some level, is good, and then still mess it up. But with ICE, their stated mission is what we disagree with. I don’t believe there should be a modern day Gestapo. I believe this is motivated by a lot of sinister things, so I asked him about it.
I go, what would you say is the good work that ICE does? He says, “ICE fights human trafficking.” I said that that’s the same crock of shit they used to push SESTA and FOSTA [the controversial sex trafficking law which was denounced by sex workers], and that’s how they sold it even to liberals. So I said that to him and he said, “What is SESTA/FOSTA?” So I started explaining it to him and then I was like, wait a minute, I’m a pizza delivery guy, why am I explaining this to the fucking Department of Homeland Security, in my apartment, which they busted into?
I just looked at him, and I was amazed by this. We had this moment where I was trying to define the concept of pork barrel spending and I was like, what’s the word? And they all went “pork” at the same time. And then when they left, one of them said, “Good luck on your tour.”
How were you feeling as this was all going down?
It was just so strange. I don’t know if there was some level of shock I was in, but I didn’t feel very present. It was so jarring and so scary on a level that I kind of took myself out of it. If I had gone into survival mode, then I would’ve been panicking. It’s all sort of hitting me today, and as I’m talking to people who were scared for me. Because I was so delirious, I wasn’t processing what could’ve happened—I could’ve been arrested by the government.
I noticed your tweets are still up. Why’d you decide to keep them?
I still think they’re funny, so I just decided to stick to my guns on this one. I think one of the worst things you can do when these things happen as a Twitter person or a comedian is apologize, because as soon as you apologize, you give all this legitimacy to any argument that you’re a bad person who did something horrible.
Does this whole experience make you want to be more activist-y online?
That’s a complicated question. I’m loosely involved in activist groups. I always feel like I should be doing more of the actual work than honking off online. On another level, my area of expertise is that I’m a comedian, so my job is to do the culture stuff and tell these stories. I don’t want this to sound like I’m tooting my own horn, I just think when everything started going down politically recently, you had to look at yourself and figure out how you could contribute. And unfortunately, the only power I really have is that measly 10,000 followers online. I think it does serve some sort of function.
We do need culture and jokes and people that take the edge off the whole world, and that didn’t really exist until recently. The left used to be very humorless and scolding. So I’m always happy to contribute and to be a part of what I think isn’t the most important part of any of this stuff, but a part that needs to be there.