Spring should be an exciting time for seniors on their way to college. Unfortunately, for one student at New York's Ossining High School, June was not marked by momentous occasions like the prom and Senior Skip Day, but detention and possible deportation. A New York high schooler was recently arrested right before his prom and graduation and is now facing deportation to Ecuador instead of celebrating his accomplishments.
NBC New York reported that Diego Ismael Puma Macancela, a 19-year-old senior at Ossining High School, was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last Thursday. Puma Macancela is an Ecuadorian national who came to the U.S. as a minor in 2014, along with his mother. The pair reportedly came to America to flee gang violence in the country.
Puma Macancela was detained by federal immigration officials on the morning of his senior prom and was also weeks away from graduating and receiving his high school diploma. According to his cousin, Gabriela Macancela, who was interviewed by NBC New York, the young man's mother was also detained on Wednesday by ICE, so Puma Macancela had come to stay with her after fearing that immigration officials would return. The officials reportedly did return the following day.
ICE reportedly told NBC New York that Puma Macancela was detained as a result of an immigration judge's final order to leave the country, which was reportedly made in November 2016. However, Macancela's family reported that they had never heard of an outstanding order for the student to leave the United States.
Puma Macancela's family and several local advocates are now working to try to ensure that the high school student can at least stay in the United States until he graduates. The Huffington Post reported that Rep. Nita Lowey, who represents the district where Puma Macancela's high school is located, issued a statement requesting that ICE put a temporary stay on the student's deportation so he can graduate. Furthermore, New York State Assemblymember Francisco Moya publicly admonished ICE officials after the arrest, describing their protocol as "unhinged."
In addition to local elected officials, members of the public are also taking a stand to advocate for Puma Macancela. A petition established by the "Ossining Community" advocating against Puma Macancela's deportation has almost reached its goal of 15,000 signatures as of early Monday morning.
Carola Bracco, the Executive Director of Neighbors Link Community Law Practice, was contacted by Puma Macancela's family shortly after his arrest. She spoke highly of the community's efforts to rally around the student and expressed hope that the high school senior would be able to remain in the U.S. for his graduation. She told USA Today:
We're working hard to see if there's a way for him to stay in this country and graduate from high school. The community has really mobilized. ... The family is absolutely heartbroken, not to mention the school community that is deeply impacted by this.
As Puma Macancela's graduation rapidly approaches, hopefully his impassioned community will be able to find a way to ensure that he can walk across that stage and receive his hard-earned high school diploma.