By Joe Guzzardi
June 16, 2017
The deportation case of 19-year-old Ecuadoran Diego Ismael Puma Macancela, an Ossining High School (New York) student, and his mother has sparked a national outcry within the immigrant advocacy network.
Here’s what we know. In 2014, Macancela and his mother were caught in Texas at the U.S.-Mexico border and, in 2016, subsequently lost their asylum appeals. They ignored their final deportation orders, and thus became fugitives from justice, subject to arrest anywhere, at any time. Shortly thereafter, immigration lawyers filed an appeal on Diego’s behalf, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement rejected it.
Diego’s lawyers, who then filed a stay of removal requesting that he be allowed to remain for one more year, claim that he may not have understood the terms of his deportation order. But most immigration courts have translators so there should have been no language barrier.
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, an open borders Democrat whose district includes Ossining, weighed in. Lowey issued a statement defending Macancela that charged the Trump administration with reckless, cruel, unconscionable action, violating community trust, and creating a “chilling effect” on relationships between illegal immigrants and law enforcement.
Plenty of additional drama surrounds Macancela’s case. ICE detained Macancela on Senior Prom Day, and just weeks before his graduation. ICE’s timing dashed Macancela’s avowed aspirations to become an auto mechanic. Protestors rallied in front of the Federal Building in lower Manhattan where Macancela was held, and carried signs that read “no ban, no wall, no raids, N.Y. is for all.”
The Washington Post published a sympathetic story that recounted, on the morning of his arrest, how Macancela surrendered to ICE rather than risk that the officers would break down his door, and possibly arrest his other illegal alien family members.
But ICE has a strong argument for Macancela’s, as well as other illegal immigrants’, removals. Testifying before the House Appropriation Committee, acting ICE director Thomas D. Homan said that if immigration laws are to have meaning, those who are in the country illegally should be arrested. Illegal entry is, Homan emphasized, a crime. Those who have outstanding final orders of deportation must be removed, Homan added. Rejecting advocates’ talking point that certain aliens like Macancela are “law-abiding,” Homan again stressed that unlawful entry is a crime, and cautioned that illegal residents should be “uncomfortable,” and be “looking over their shoulder.” With finality, Homan said that nowhere else in the American justice system is any government agency [except ICE] told to ignore a judge’s final ruling.
Over and above his illegal entry, Macancela was not law-abiding. Macancela held jobs at McDonalds and a local pizzeria which would require applicants to submit employment forms including an I-9. He’s likely guilty of identity theft, and/or falsifying his employment application with a fabricated Social Security number. The former is a felony; the latter, a crime.
Here are more facts that we also know. For every case that comes before an immigration judge, a compelling story – some true, some false – is told. And every time an illegal immigrant is put into removal proceedings, advocates point to special circumstances – some real, some not – as a reason ICE should make an exception.
But what we know with absolute cast-iron certainty is that Homan is right. For U.S. immigration laws to have validity, they must be enforced, across the board, no exceptions.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.