Hours before his senior prom was set to begin, Diego Ismael Puma Macancela hid in a bedroom closet at his cousin’s home as immigration officers who had come looking for him stood outside the apartment banging on the door and threatening to break it down if Puma Macancela did not come out.
Worried that agents breaking down the door would bring unwanted scrutiny on his undocumented relatives, the 19-year-old from Ossining, N.Y., made the decision to turn himself in, the Washington Post reports. His mother had been arrested and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement just the day before.
Puma Macancela was taken to a detention facility in New Jersey. Rosa Ines Macancela Vazquez, his undocumented Ecuadoran immigrant mother, who entered the United States with him two years ago, was being held at Orange County Correctional Facility in Goshen, N.Y.
Puma Macancela was scheduled to walk in his high school graduation Saturday, but instead he faces imminent deportation to his native country.
“He is petrified,” Carola Bracco, executive director of Neighbors Link, a nonprofit group handling the teenager’s case, said. “He is scared to death he’s going to be sent back to Ecuador.”
On Monday, lawyers for Puma Macancela filed a request for a stay of removal, asking authorities to grant him one more year in the country so he can finish high school and follow through on his plan to become a certified auto mechanic.
Puma Macancela has the support of relatives, immigration lawyers, Washington lawmakers and even the school superintendent from the village he lived in north of New York City, the Post reports.
Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) wrote a letter to ICE on his behalf, requesting a stay of removal.
Prior to his arrest, in addition to attending high school, the teen worked at McDonald’s and a local pizzeria.
Puma Macancela’s father told CBS New York that he feels “broken.”
“We came to this country not to harm anyone, but to work and to educate my kids,” the father said.
Read more at the Washington Post.