New York

Westchester High School Senior Detained by ICE Day of Prom Moved to Louisiana

What to Know

  • Diego Ismael Puma Macancela, a 19-year-old Ecuadorean national, was detained by ICE on the day of his prom earlier this month
  • He's now been transferred to a facility in Louisiana; his mother has also been transferred, and is being held 50 miles from where he is
  • A vigil was being held for the two Wednesday afternoon

The Westchester high school student detained by federal immigration police on the day of his senior prom has been moved out of New York and into a holding facility in Louisiana, relatives and advocates say as they prepare to hold a vigil Wednesday afternoon.

Diego Ismael Puma Macancela, a 19-year-old Ecuadorean national and a senior at Ossining High School, is at an immigration holding facility in Alexandra, Louisiana, according to Neighbors Link, the immigrant rights advocacy group representing Puma Macancela. 

His mother, Rosa Ines Macancela-Vazquez, has also been moved, and she's now 50 miles from her son, at the LaSalle Detention Facility. 

A vigil will be held for the teen and his mother at 26 Federal Plaza at 2 p.m. Wednesday, their family says. 

The two were held at the Orange County Correctional Facility in Goshen after they were arrested earlier this month. They stayed there while their lawyers filed appeals with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to delay deportation proceedings. 

The timing of the next steps in the process remains unclear. Mary Vinton, director of development and communication at Neighbors Link, says the group is continuing to work with community leaders and with Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-Rockland/Westchester) on the case.

Puma Macancela and his mother arrived in the U.S. in 2014, fleeing Ecuador because of gang violence, relatives told News 4. Puma Macancela was just weeks away from graduation when his mother was detained on June 7. 

Fearful after her detainment, Puma Macancela went to his cousin's apartment that night. But ICE 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 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.

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

Lowey called on ICE to postpone his deportation so that he can graduate from high school. 

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. 

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