Javier Castillo Maradiaga, 27, came to the United States from Honduras when he was seven- years-old. He lived with his family in the Bronx until December of 2019. When he was nine he was served an order of deportation, despite the fact that his parents both have Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
Maradiaga was a recipient of DACA but, according to his sister Dariela, he did not reapply when his status expired in 2019 in fear that if provided with his current information, ICE would remove him based on the years-old deportation order.
In December 2019, Maradiaga was stopped and frisked for jaywalking by the NYPD. Charges related to the stop were dismissed and sealed. After spending two days in jail, New York City’s Department of Corrections turned Maradiaga in to ICE. This was at odds with New York City’s stated position of being a sanctuary city that would not hand over undocumented residents charged with minor crimes to ICE. However, the policy was never fully binding and hasn’t prevented the NYPD and ICE from collaborating.
At a press conference for Maradiaga on Sunday, Congressman Ritchie Torres of New York’s 15th District in the Bronx called out NYPD’s cooperation with ICE. “It goes to show the NYPD is almost every bit as rogue as ICE, because both the Mayor and City Council have made it clear that they should not be in cooperation with ICE,” said Torres. “Javier did nothing that required him to be referred to ICE. Nothing. I think it’s a disgrace that the NYPD is complicit in the deportation of New York’s innocent.”
After spending about a year in detention centers in New York and New Jersey, Maradiaga was to be deported to Honduras on January 22.
Before a person is deported South of the U.S.-Mexico border, they are sent to a staging facility. Maradiaga was in the Alexandria Staging Facility in Louisiana when the acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, David Pekoske, signed a memorandum directing DHS to pause most deportations for 100 days. Maradiaga and the other detainees were told their January 22nd flight was cancelled. Then ICE told him that he would in fact be deported—on the 25th at 2 a.m. because the moratorium didn’t apply to his case. On Tuesday morning he was instead sent back to Orange County Correctional Facility in New York, a jail that has a contract with ICE to hold immigrant detainees.
While Maradiaga was at the staging facility, he reported that there was much confusion in regards to the moratorium. “When [detained] people tried to bring attention to the memorandum, ICE officials said, “ ‘I don’t get my orders from the news,’ essentially saying, ‘what moratorium?’. That was the clear message that he and everyone was receiving from the folks who work there,” said his lawyer, Rebecca Press of UnLocal Inc.
New York claims to be a sanctuary city that will not hand over to ICE undocumented residents charged with minor crimes. However, the policy was never fully binding and hasn’t prevented the NYPD and ICE from collaborating.
On January 26, U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton of the Southern District of Texas issued an injunction that temporarily paused the deportation moratorium and plans for Maradiaga’s deportation were put in motion again. He was flown back to Louisiana on Thursday and set to be deported at 5 a.m. on Friday morning, without the knowledge of his family or legal team. They received word from him because per his release from the Orange facility, he was given some of his belongings and was able to send a text using airport WiFi.
Upon receiving the news of the Friday deportation, those that had already been fighting for Maradiaga’s freedom—his family, legal team, and community organizations like Make the Road NY and the New York Legal Assistance Group—sprang into action again. They held several rallies and press conferences and organized calling campaigns. Senators Ritchie Torres and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote a letter to the Acting Director of ICE urging him to stay Maradiaga’s removal.
At the Sunday press conference, Javier’s mother, Alma Maradiaga, spoke about her wish for her son to be free:
Please stop bullying my son. Stop bullying my family. Stop bullying my community. My community needs us...With this deep pain that I experience as a mother, I wake up at 4:30 am to work as an essential worker for the City of New York. I work for a nutritional clinic for the City of New York. I am a person who makes sure that people of the city receive the food they need, that people with feeding tubes receive the nutrition they need...But every day, I cry inside, my heart broken to pieces. And I have to keep it inside. I am an immigrant, proud to have been able to provide to the community what I can and more. Since I came to this country, I have looked for work where the community could take advantage of my knowledge...I am here when the Bronx needs me and I am here when New York City needs me. I’ve sometimes worked three shifts in a row. I should not be here today, fighting for my son’s freedom. My son should not be living with the terror of not knowing where he’s going to wake up, he should be able to be thinking, “What am I going to do today for my community?” Our community needs us. ICE must stop this bullying.
When the Indypendent contacted Alma for an interview for this article, she apologized for not being able to spare the time due to her working overtime at the clinic. Not many people were able to make it through the blizzard to get to work.
A little before midnight on Thursday, Maradiaga was told he would not be flown out of the country the following morning. His support team is under the impression that he will soon be sent back to New York, as informed by the New York ICE Field Office, who provided no explanation for their decision. People are only supposed to be held at Alexandria Staging Facility for three or four days because of the limited capacity and services. The facility only has 80 beds and the turn around should be quick so that people can be quickly removed, clearing up space for the next round of deportees. But due to the blizzard, it is unsure when Maradiaga will return. Because of the back-and-forth of the last week, Maradiaga and his supporters are holding their breath until he actually sets foot on New York soil.
When asked about the exhausting seesawing of her client’s removal process, Rebecca Press told the Indypendent, “I think it is a fear tactic, one that is very effective on detainees but also increases confusion among legal team members and family members. We have to operate in an entirely defensive posture. We can take nothing for granted which is very much how we felt when we got the word from New York that Javier would come back to New York. There’s no way we can assume that’s true.”
Press added, “We believe he will be sent back to detention but it’s theoretically possible they’ll make the decision to release him. That’s what we’re pushing for.”
Ken Lopez contributed reporting to this article.
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