The family of a Latino father of three is worried that his health condition will worsen if he remains in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.
The family has been voicing concerns for nearly a month, and assisted by the immigrant rights group Make The Road New York, has been calling for his immediate release from detention and for his deportation to be stayed.
Their calls intensified this week after Edward Alonso-Castillo, 48, a small-business owner in New York City who has a standing order of removal against him following several charges, was hospitalized with severe chest pains while in ICE custody.
According to Make The Road New York, he has reported feeling some of the symptoms he experienced a few years ago when he had a stroke.
Alonso-Castillo wears a cardiac monitor and has been experiencing severe headaches and other symptoms while in detention. A recent medical review of his records concluded that he is "at high risk of health complications including another stroke, blood clots and even death" if he doesn't get the care he needs, according to Make The Road New York.
A doctor concluded that he has not received the specialized care he needs at the jail where he is detained and that he should be released immediately to seek urgent medical care, Make The Road New York said in a statement. He is also at high risk of suffering severe complications from Covid-19 due to his underlying conditions.
"He's currently hospitalized right now," Luba Cortes, an immigrant defense coordinator at Make The Road New York, told NBC News. "This is obviously a person that should not be in a detention center."
“Every day that Alonso spends detained puts his life at greater risk," his partner, Rocio Molina, said in a statement. "For the last month, we have been worried about his health and want him to come home where he belongs so that he can get the medical attention that he desperately needs.”
Alonso-Castillo first came to the United States as a teenager. He and Molina now co-own Babylon Bagel, a small business in Long Island.
The family and Make the Road said that at the height of the pandemic, Alonso-Castillo and Molina donated food to essential workers and hospitals across Long Island. They have also given out free food to immigrants who, like themselves, did not qualify for federal aid.
Immigration officers in New York arrested Alonso-Castillo when he was on his way to work Jan. 28 for being "unlawfully present" in the U.S., according to an ICE spokesperson.
Alonso-Castillo is currently in custody at the Orange County Jail in Goshen, New York. The county jail is one of three in the New York City area with an intergovernmental service agreement that allows them to confine people in removal proceedings, according to the civil rights organization New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
The group recently found that New York City-area jails with ICE contracts, including the Orange County Jail, "routinely deny vital medical treatment to people in detention who have serious health conditions, delay specialist care and surgery, ignore complaints, fail to treat chronic conditions, fail to keep medical records up to standards, and refuse basic health-related items," according to a recent report.
ICE said it could not comment on issues related to Alonso-Castillo’s health.
"It's important for us to uplift these struggles because there's a serious disconnect between what the administration is saying and what ICE is actually doing, which is not surprising because ICE often has acted as a rogue agency," Cortes said.
Under former President Donald Trump, undocumented immigrants with any kind of prior criminal record were a priority for deportation, but that changed under President Joe Biden.
Immigration authorities have been directed to focus their enforcement efforts on apprehending and removing people who pose a threat to national security, committed crimes designated as “aggravated” felonies or recently crossed the border, according to new guidelines issued last week by the Biden administration.
Alonso-Castillo was convicted on a charge of criminal contempt in 2006 and on a charge of transferring false identification in 2007, which are often considered misdemeanors. He was deported to Mexico at the time and later returned to the U.S. "at an unknown time and location," according to ICE. Last year, he was arrested and charged with third-degree assault, also considered a misdemeanor, by New York Police Department officers. Those charges are currently pending, ICE said.
Despite his record, Make The Road New York argues that he doesn't meet any of the requirements stated under the new guidelines.
"Under ICE newly-issued guidelines, Alonso is not a priority for detention or removal. He should be allowed to reunite with his family so that he can seek medical care and continue pursuing relief without the threat of imminent deportation,” Jackie Pearce, a senior raids response attorney at Make the Road New York, said in a statement, adding he's a "well-loved community member."
Cortes said that while ICE could use its discretion and allow Alonso-Castillo to fight his case at home, the agency tends to avoid this "because of the money that's funneled into the detention industrial complex" and "they have quotas to fulfill."
Biden has announced a 100-day moratorium on most deportations, but a federal judge who had been appointed by Trump indefinitely banned the Biden administration from enforcing it.
"Just like Alonso, there's many other immigrants that have faced the same things, where they shouldn't have been detained, but were detained. So, that really makes us question what's happening with this new administration," Cortes said. "We want to hold this new administration accountable, as well."
Update March 4, 2021: Since this story was published, Alonso-Castillo was released from the hospital and taken back to Orange County Jail on Friday afternoon. The legal team at Make The Road NY is still working on his release.