JULY 2003

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For 10 Ecuadorians, the American Dream Becomes a Nightmare

From El Diario

By Gloria Medina

Ten Ecuadorians, all members of the same family, face deportation, after being detained by FBI agents during a raid made on two apartments in Queens.

On the morning of May 29, the Paguay family got out of bed in the Immigration Detention Center in Lower Manhattan. “They only told us to get dressed, to put on our shoes,” said Segundo, a member of the family. “Later we saw that they brought my sister in law and two others from the other apartment,” he added.

The reasons for this are confused, but according to the immigrants, who are free after paying a total of $100,000 in bail, they were detained and threatened with deportation because of their “humble origins and being undocumented.”

The only explanation that they received was “for being illegal” indicated Lui Paguay, a 27 year old, who supports his wife and two children in Ecuador.

According to documents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Paguays were scheduled to appear before an immigration judge June 27, where it was to be decided whether they would remain in the country or be deported.

FBI Confirms Arrest

On the other side, a spokesman for the FBI, Jim Margou, told this newspaper that “ordinarily, when we make an arrest, there must be a complaint or a formal accusation”. But he added that the FBI would verify what the basis for the arrests were.

The Paguay family came to this country like thousands of other immigrants with the desire for a better life and have worked as day-laborers in order to pay for the debts they incurred for the trip to the United States and to support their families in their native country.

“They say that to come here is the American dream, but when you live through these things yourself, it is horrible,” said Edgar Paguay, 21, one of those who were arrested.
According to Segundo Paguay, 23, this was not the first visit the FBI made to the family’s home.

“Like one month before, they came with a photograph of a man, asking if we knew him. None of us recognized the man and we were told to be careful because he was very dangerous, and they left,” he added.

Arrest Without Motive

“They were arrested only for appearing undocumented, but without any motive, until later when they discovered that they did not have documents,” said Stella Figueredo, director of the American Federation of Immigrants, which has offered free legal services to the family.

“We don’t have any account with the law, but we need to stay here to pay our debts and continue supporting our families in Ecuador,” said the youngest of the Paguay brothers.

According to the superintendent of the apartment building, Eduardo Ortega, the FBI agents had been asking about one man who looked Ecuadorian and therefore were directed to the Paguays’ apartment.

“And of course, if they entered to ask and saw so many people in an apartment so small, what are they going to think?” said Ortega, who described the Paguays as very respectable people.

Deportations

Mark Thorn, spokesman for the new office in charge of immigration issues, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in New York told El Diario/La Prensa, that he could not discuss any specific case. “In general, it could have been that the office of immigration was looking for a fugitive individual, that there was a definite expulsion order and it was never presented,” he added.

According to the spokesman, if during the investigation, someone was discovered to have violated immigration laws, the agents would have the “obligation” to arrest them and give them a warning so they would appear before an immigration judge.

“In such cases, the individuals in general are not detained and have the right to legal representation and only the immigration judge can expel them from the country,” said Thorn.
But the spokesman could not explain why the 10 members of this family were detained for two weeks until they posted bail.

Translated from Spanish by Charlotte Triggs.

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