Immigrant Claims Port Authority Called ICE on Him

Edna Hernández, wife of Edgar Latacela and the mother of their 6-year-old child, is asking ICE to free him. He was taken to a detention center in NJ two months ago. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Since Donald Trump took office as president of the United States, the City and State of New York have stood up to him in defense of immigrants. The two government bodies have said that none of their agencies would share information on undocumented people who are not a threat to public safety. However, on Aug. 3, as he was leaving his house in Forest Hills, Queens, Ecuadorean immigrant Edgar Latacela felt that the order given by New York’s leaders was neglected.

Several ICE agents were waiting for him outside. When he came out, they arrested him and took him to Federal Plaza first, and then to a detention center in New Jersey. The paperwork that immigration agents were handling contained a photograph that the Port Authority Police had taken of Latacela on Oct. 2, 2015, when the NYPD arrested him at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal C for allegedly picking up a passenger in a hire car without authorization. Upon seeing the picture, Latacela suspected that the agencies had shared information and that the threats made to him by some airport officers – who said that they were watching him – had come true.

Two and a half years after the arrest, which Latacela described as “violent, abusive, ill-intentioned and unfair,” he filed a lawsuit against the Port Authority and the agent who arrested him, alleging that he had assaulted him, causing him severe injuries. After receiving constant threats from Port Authority officers, Latacela said, and following the advice of relatives and fellow hire car drivers at LaGuardia, the Ecuador native decided to withdraw the lawsuit and avoid further problems.

“The Port Authority Police is harassing drivers, and I would say that they passed my husband’s information on. Otherwise, how do you explain that immigration agents came here precisely with a picture taken by the Port Authority?” said Colombian-born Edna Hernández, Latacela’s wife. (…)

Hernández, an entrepreneur who is a U.S. citizen, also said that his detention by immigration authorities was unfair, as he has a pending adjustment of status by marriage. It was supposed to be approved as soon as Latacela solved a traffic tickets issue, which he was going to do in court the day he was arrested. A month ago, he was allowed to leave the detention center temporarily to finalize that process by appearing in front of a judge, who dismissed the fines.

“He had no deportation order. He is a man who has no criminal background, he has paid his taxes, and it is unfair for them to detain him without a reason and to refuse to release him,” said Hernández, adding that she has gone through hell in the last two months.

“My 6-year-old constantly wakes up crying at night. He is extremely traumatized by his dad’s absence. I can’t sleep; I am filled with anguish. Financially, I am beginning to have so many problems that I am about to start looking for some place to go with my child and my 80-year-old parents. I cannot pay for this apartment by myself,” said Hernández. (…)

From the detention center, where he was beat up by a fellow inmate, Latacela is calling for his release and maintains his suspicion that ICE received information about him directly from Port Authority employees. “They abused me because I accused the officer. The last time they caught me, he mistreated me, and he took it personally,” said Latacela.

(…) Port Authority stated that there is nothing that makes them think that their officers shared information with “la migra,” but said that, after learning about the complaints, they opened an investigation on the case.

(…)

For its part, ICE’s office in New York denied that the Port Authority Police is sharing information with them, adding that, although it is “highly unlikely” for officers to call them specifically to denounce undocumented immigrants, “it is not impossible for that to happen, either.”

(…) When he learned about the case, Council member Ydanis Rodríguez, a member of the City Council’s Committee on Civil and Human Rights, called on Port Authority administrators and the governors of New York and New Jersey (…) “to use their influence to make sure that a resolution establishing that they will not collaborate with ICE is passed.”

Similarly, Council member Rafael Salamanca asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate whether there were, in fact, direct actions made by one or more officers giving out information to “la migra” in Latacela’s case.

Hazel Crampton-Hays, spokeswoman for the New York governor, reiterated the state’s commitment to defending immigrants. (…) “It is imperative for Port Authority, which is not a state agency and therefore is not governed by executive orders, to thoroughly investigate these unsettling accusations,” said the official. (…) “The governor is doing everything in our power to protect all immigrant families, and will offer free, high-quality legal assistance to Mr. Latacela through the Liberty Defense Project.”

(…)

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson criticized Latacela’s detention: (…) “The Trump administration’s enforcement of aggressive, arbitrary immigration authority continues to split families,” said Johnson. (…)

(…)

Meanwhile, the long wait is already affecting Hernández’s health. She has been hospitalized in Queens in the last two weeks, and has had several blood transfusions due to exhaustion, while little Nicolás, the couple’s only son, cannot stop crying and repeating: “I want Daddy to come home,” “I want Daddy to come home now.”

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