What was supposed to be a time of celebration for 19-year-old Diego Ismael Puma Macancela, an Ecuadorian national, ended up being a day of tragedy. Just a day after federal immigration police arrested his mother, the Westchester County student was arrested hours before his prom and days before his graduation on June 17th.
The Ossining High School senior’s cousin, Gaby Macancela, spoke on what she witnessed on Thursday, the day of the arrest. She said that Puma Macanela arrived at her apartment, panicked, on Wednesday evening after his mother was arrested. The following morning, agents were knocking on her apartment door.
“Wake up. The police are here again,” she recalls Puma Macancela telling her, as told to NBC. “They’re coming for me.”
Her cousin faced his fate and walked out to be arrested. She added, “He’s not a criminal. He didn’t do anything bad to nobody. 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.”
Both he and his mother fled Ecaudor because of gang violence in 2014, according to NBC.
The mayor of the Hudson River village, Victoria Gearity, told the news outlet that local police were not notified before the arrest but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement denies these claims. “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,” the agency told Chica in a statement.
New York State Assemblymember Francisco Moya also made a statement against this arrest saying, “At what point does this administration admit their immigration policy has immeasurably overstepped itself?”
According to the federal agency, Puma Macancela is currently in custody “pending removal from the United States” following an order of removal by an immigration judge from last November.
The 19-year-old’s family reached out to a New York-based immigrants rights group called Neighbors Link Community immediately after the arrest. In a statement to Chica, the organization’s executive director Carola Bracco says, “These actions instill fear, anxiety and uncertainty that impact long-term residents and immigrants alike. It paralyzes the immigrant community to the point where they will not feel secure to interact with local law enforcement to report crimes or engage in a meaningful way. This is not keeping us safe.”
An online petition was organized on the teen’s behalf. As of 6 p.m. on Monday, it has gained over 16,000 supporters almost reaching its goal of 17,000 signatures.