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Westchester High School Student Arrested by ICE Officers Days Before Graduation

What to Know

  • Diego Ismael Puma Macancela, a 19-year-old Ecuadorean national, was detained by ICE on the day of his prom this week
  • Diego Ismael Puma Macancela's mother was detained the day before; he stayed at a family member's home, where he was taken into custody
  • The mayor of Ossining criticized ICE for not notifying local officials beforehand, but ICE said it had in fact informed them

A Westchester high school student was detained by federal immigration police on the day of his senior prom, and a day after his mother was taken into custody for deportation, according to officials and family. 

Diego Ismael Puma Macancela, a 19-year-old Ecuadorean national is a senior at Ossining High School. He arrived in the U.S. with his mother in 2014. They fled their native country because of gang violence.  

Puma Macancela was just weeks away from graduation when his mother was detained Wednesday.

Fearful after her detainment, Puma Macancela went to his cousin's apartment that night. But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents came knocking at the door Thursday. 

His cousin, Gabriela Macancela, said they hid in fear as ICE agents surrounded the home because he was "really scared."

Puma Macancela eventually walked out and was detained. Macancela said she heard the agents say, "He's coming out, he's coming out," as he left the apartment. 

"They grabbed him like he's a criminal," Macancela said. "He didn't do anything wrong, he was just doing the best he could for his future." 

ICE outside westchester home
A photo provided by Diego Ismael Puma Macancela's family shows federal immigration agents during the teen's arrest this week.

ICE told News 4 New York that the arrest was the result of an immigration judge's final order back in November 2016. 

Relatives said they didn't know about the order for Puma Macancela to leave the U.S. and thought there would be a chance to appeal as the teen finished his schooling. 

"He came here to start a new life, and now he's going to have to go back and start all over again," Macancela said. 

Ossining Mayor Victoria Gearity told News 4 she learned about the ICE raid by watching it unfold outside her window. She has criticized the federal agency for not notifying village officials beforehand. 

However, in a statement to News 4, ICE spokeswoman Rachael Yong Yow said officials were notified. 

"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.

The New York Attorney General has shut down a non-profit in the Bronx that an investigation by Telemundo 47 Investiga and WNYC Radio revealed was selling bogus ID cards that promised protection from deportation. Pablo Gutierrez reports.

Gearity said she's concerned about the impact ICE raids will have on immigrant communities. 

"When people are very scared, it's tough to distinguish between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials," she said. "What that means is people won't report crimes." 

Puma Macancela's family said they're exploring legal options and working with local immigration groups. 

Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-Rockland/Westchester) called on ICE to postpone his deportation so that he can graduate from high school. 

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In a statement, Lowey said the teen was well-liked and admired, and that "young people who were brought to the United States as minors and have no criminal record should never be subject to such a cruel, deportation-first policy."

"While it is critical we work to improve our nation’s immigration system, the Trump Administration’s increasingly aggressive assault on immigrant families does not reflect the values on which this nation was founded," the statement continued. 

An online petition in support of Puma Macancela had more than 2,000 signatures by Friday evening, as he and his mother await deportation in ICE holding centers.

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