A 19-year-old Ossining High School student was taken into custody by federal immigration authorities on Thursday, the same day as his senior prom.
The arrest of Diego Ismael Puma Macancela, an Ecuadorean national, came just one day after immigration agents took his mother into custody for deportation.
Officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested the high school senior based on a Nov. 16 deportation order against him, according to Rachael Yong Yow, public affairs officer for the federal agency.
His cousin, Gaby Macancela, said a frightened Puma Macancela came to her Prospect Avenue 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 the apartment.
“Wake up, the police are here again,” she said Puma Macancela told her. “They’re coming for me.”
She said her cousin eventually walked outside and was arrested.
“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.”
Village Mayor Victoria Gearity said it was believed Puma Macancela 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,” Gearity 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 added. “That makes everyone in Ossining less safe.”
Yong Yow, however, said village officials had been made aware of ICE’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.
Ossining village police Chief Kevin Sylvester declined to 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.
“Given permission by the courts, we would, of course, welcome our student back for his final exams and graduation next week,” he said. “As always, we will continue to provide our students with a safe and supportive environment including any and all students impacted by this situation.”
Carola Bracco, executive director of Neighbors Link, a Mount Kisco-based immigrants rights group, said her office was contacted by Puma Macancela’s family 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.”
Congresswoman Nita Lowey officially asked for a stay of removal on behalf of Puma in a letter to the acting director of ICE and said this will “have a chilling effect” on immigrant community-law enforcement relationships.
“A productive and contributing member of our community, his only crime was being brought to the United States as a minor by a parent,” Lowey said in the letter. “ICE should focus its enforcement action on felonious adults, not children and students.”
Supporters of the high school student started an online petition on his behalf. As of 05:00 p.m. on Friday, there were well over 3,000 signatures.