Jackson Heights resident Alfredo Flores has been reunited with his family after spending nearly a month in ICE detainment.
Assembly candidate Catalina Cruz held a press conference at the Jackson Heights Post Office (78-02 37th Ave.) on Aug. 15 to welcome Flores home and also to push for New York to become a sanctuary state. Cruz read about Flores’ story in the local news and offered her aid to the family.
The assembly candidate and DREAMer was able to connect the family to pro bono legal representation to get Flores released on bond.
Flores, who moved from Mexico to the United States a decade ago, had been in ICE custody at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, New York since July 16.
On that day, Flores, an undocumented immigrant, was traveling by Greyhound Bus to see his brother in Seattle, Washington when he was detained by ICE. According to a published report, the bus route ventured into a part of Canada, a fact which neither Flores nor his wife Wendy Valverde had realized.
ICE spokesperson Khaalid Walls said that the father of three was encountered by ICE agents at the Peace Bridge Port of Entry in Buffalo, New York, who refused him entry into Canada. He was then brought to a Buffalo detention facility in the custody of Canadian authorities.
He was released on Aug. 7 when his wife was able to secure the $10,000 bond money through the fundraising page she started on Facebook.
QNS spoke to Valverde, who described that stress-filed day of her husband’s release.
“That day was very, very busy and frustrating,” said Valverde, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Peru.
She described the lengthy ordeal, starting when she was unable to obtain the money from her bank, which did not have an upstate branch. Valverde said that she was finally able to get the money and deposit the cashier’s check to the detention center at 1 p.m., but it would be another five hours until her husband was released.
At 6 p.m., Flores was granted release from the facility but were informed that there were no more departing Greyhound buses that night. The family spent the night at the gas station and took the first bus to New York City the following day.
Valverde said that her husband described the conditions in the detention facility as “really hard.” They put those in custody to work, making them clean and do hard labor for $1 a day. Valverde said Flores also told her that they treat inmates badly and give them “attitude” while providing them with as little information as possible.
“It makes you appreciate the little things and the good things,” she said.
Since he’s been back, Valverde said that their children are reluctant for Flores to be out of their sight.
“Whenever he leaves the room, they [the kids], especially the oldest one ask, ‘where is daddy?’ ‘where are you going?’, because they’re afraid he won’t come back since that’s what happened last time.”
Though the family is happy to have him home, their reunion is tinged with some anxiety for Flores’ next court date on Aug. 21. She shared that their lawyer is trying to transfer their case from Buffalo to New York City, but for now she “doesn’t know what’s next.”
What Valverde does know is that now is the time for change to happen.
“This separating families needs to stop,” she said. “Everyone should see what the president is really doing. He’s affecting entire families and kids. I want people to know and prevent it from happening to other people.”
ICE could not be reached for comment at this time.