Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino talks to The Journal News/lohud.com Editorial Board about complying with federal agencies regarding undocumented immigrants, March 29, 2017. John Meore/lohud
OSSINING, N.Y. — Federal immigration authorities took a 19-year-old high school student into custody hours before his senior prom.
Diego Ismael Puma Macancela, a citizen of Ecuador, was arrested at his cousin’s Ossining home Thursday morning, according to Rachael Yong Yow, public affairs officer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The agency said Puma Macancela is being held at a federal detention center pending deportation. His arrest comes in wake of a deportation order that an immigration judge signed Nov. 16.
His cousin, Gaby Macancela, said a frightened Puma Macancela came to her apartment Wednesday night after his mother’s arrest. The following morning, she said they cowered in fear in one of the bedrooms when they heard agents banging on the door of her apartment.
“Wake up. The police are here again,” she said Puma Macancela told her. “They’re coming for me.”
Her cousin eventually walked outside and was arrested, she said.
“He’s not a criminal. He didn’t do anything bad to nobody,” she said. “He was just going to school, working. He was trying to make his dreams come true for him, for his family, for us. I don’t know why. He’s just a kid.”
Victoria Gearity, mayor of the Hudson River village of 25,000 residents about 30 miles north of Manhattan, said the student and his family believed he had been permitted to remain in the United States for several years while his case was reviewed. Gearity said the arrest played out in front of her.
“As people were heading out to work, and kids were walking to the bus stop, three federal agents were walking around the property of the house across the street from me,” she said. “I spoke with one of the ICE officers. He was cordial and professional.”
She criticized the agency for not notifying village police before the arrest.
“The Ossining Police Department has been at the forefront of community policing, and they have increased their outreach to the immigrant community in recent months,” the mayor said. “But when people are scared, it’s tough to distinguish between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement.”
“And that means people are less likely to report crimes or help with investigations,” she said. 2010 Census figures show that more than 2 out of 5 residents in this village of 25,000 residents identify themselves as Latino.
However, Yong Yow said village officials were made aware of the federal agency’s actions.
“Contrary to a statement issued from the Ossining Mayor’s Office, local police received prior notification that ICE would be in the local area conducting targeted enforcement actions,” she said in a statement.
Chief Kevin Sylvester of Ossining village police did not respond to immediate requests for comment.
Schools Superintendent Ray Sanchez said the district was notified Thursday.
“We understand from the family’s legal counsel that an appeal will be filed to at least grant our student the ability to finish high school over the next several weeks as he was on course to do,” Sanchez said in a statement Friday.
Executive Director Carola Bracco of Neighbors Link Community Law Practice, a Mount Kisco, N.Y.-based immigrants rights group, said Puma Macancela’s family contacted her office shortly after the arrest.
“We’re working hard to see if there’s a way for him to stay in this country and graduate from high school. The community has really mobilized,” Bracco said. “The family is absolutely heartbroken, not to mention the school community that is deeply impacted by this.”
Supporters of the high school student started an online petition on his behalf. As of 6 p.m. Friday, it had almost 2,500 signees.