OSSINING, N.Y. -- Neighbors Link, a Mount Kisco-based organization that advocates for immigrants, is providing legal representation to Diego Puma Macancela and his mother, Rosa Vasquez.
Macancela, a 19-year--old Ossining resident, was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at his home last Thursday, the same day as his senior prom and days before his graduation. His mother was detained last Wednesday.
Macancela and his mother had been ordered removed by an immigration judge last November They had fled Ecuador because of gang violence in 2014 and were seeking asylum, Carola Bracco, executive director of Neighbors Link, said.
The two are being held in separate facilities. Macancela is in New Jersey, while Vasquez is being held in Orange County Correctional Facility.
Rep. Nita Lowey's office has been attempting to get Macancela reunited with his mother, but as of Tuesday night, that had not yet occurred, Bracco said.
Bracco said Macancela is scared and petrified of being sent back to Ecuador and is extremely lonely without his mother. Macancela and his mother are only allowed to meet with a lawyer for 15 minutes at a time, and having the two kept in separate facilities has been a strain on the family, Bracco said.
"This is really traumatizing for a youngster like him," Bracco said. "He was doing everything in a lawful fashion."
While attending Ossining High School, Macancela worked two jobs and paid taxes, Bracco said.
"He committed no crime," Bracco said. "We have a lawless deportation system if someone like Diego can be hunted down like that. This is inhumane."
Neighbors Link is pouring over the legal documents related to the case to find out what happened when their asylum request was denied in November.
Bracco fears a case like Macancela's could prevent immigrants from cooperating with law enforcement if they are victims or witnesses to a crime.
"Local law enforcement has worked so hard to build trust in the community," Bracco said. "This erodes trust."
Macancela's detention has attracted worldwide attention. A petition has attracted more than 18,000 signatures, with signees from countries like Sweden, Germany, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
Ossining School Superintendent Raymond Sanchez said they would welcome back Macancela to finish his final exams and graduate high school.