About 200 supporters of ICE detainee Luis Eduardo Martinez made a stand outside Orange County Correctional on Sunday, coming close to being arrested.
The demonstration, which began in the parking lot before moving to the access road, caught the attention of several inmates who were outside in the prison yard at the time. About 10 inmates waved and clapped in support.
Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been holding Martinez there since he was detained outside his construction company’s offices on January 16.
His family helped organize the protest after learning the night before that Martinez is about to be deported.
“Hearing that my brother is going to be deported soon, without even court?” mused Luis’s brother, Leo Gomez. “From our understanding, he’s ‘on the list,’ per se. The deportation date could be even tomorrow.”
Martinez came to the U.S. with his mother when he was three, just after his father was killed in Mexico. His mother, siblings and three children are citizens.
During Spectrum News’ last visit with Martinez at the jail, he said he had been trying for years to get a legal status. Martinez said he had once been deported — and he later returned — after he took a trip to Mexico that was not permitted by his legal status at the time.
In a January message to New Paltz Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Torres, an ICE official said Martinez had been deported twice before.
Luis told Spectrum News that in 2016, he learned about “U Nonimmigrant Status” (U-Visa), which is given to those “who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity,” according to the department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Sources.
He said he then applied for the U-Visa, believing he was eligible since he saw his brother Jesus get shot and killed in Newburgh in 1999, and later helped police investigate the murder.
He has not yet received any word on his application.
“What kind of humanity do you have, Mr. President?” Martinez’s mother, Maria Luisa Reymundo, rhetorically asked in Spanish when addressing supporters. “People voted for him. For what? For this filthy presidency?”
As numbers grew, jail officials ordered the protesters out of the parking lot to a median on the jail’s access road. Shortly after that, deputies told protesters they had to disperse for safety reasons. Protesters did not push it.
“I’ve been asked to speak with you and let you know that arrests will be made if we do not disperse,” protester Gloria Bonelli said to the group.
After the crowd scattered, Reymundo said she hopes someone in a position of power hears Martinez’s story and does something compassionate.
“He doesn’t have legal documentation, but he grew up here. He came here as a little child,” she said. “He grew up here. Without us, why would he go to Mexico where he doesn’t have anyone?”
It is unclear when exactly Martinez is scheduled for deportation.
ICE, Rep. Antonio Delgado, and Martinez’s attorneys did not immediately return requests for comment.