Fernando Martínez/El Diario

Carmen Cruz, the mother of a young man who was shot in the face by an ICE agent, offered her testimony at a City Council hearing last week. (Fernando Martínez/El Diario)

Read the original story in Spanish at El Diario
Translated and condensed by Carlos Rodríguez Martorell

The hours spent at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Hospital by young Mexican tourist Erick Díaz-Cruz and his mother’s partner, Gaspar Avendaño-Hernández, after being injured during a convoluted immigration raid in the Gravesend area, have sparked the City Council to examine alleged abuses committed by immigration officers against detained people who are hospitalized.

Council members are also trying to prevent agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from passing themselves as police officers.

“The federal agents who took over the hospital did not allow lawyers or family members to have access to my partner or my son from the moment they arrived in the emergency room,” said Carmen Cruz, the mother of Díaz-Cruz, the young man who was shot in the face on Feb. 6 during an ICE operation.

Cruz, who testified in front of the Council’s immigration committee, chaired by Councilman Carlos Menchaca, described the presence of ICE at the health services facility as “stifling and inhumane.”

“They never took the handcuffs off my partner [Avendaño-Hernández], not even while he was being treated. It was a violation of our rights and an injustice for federal agents to operate inside the hospital in that manner. They even forbade relatives from getting close,” said Cruz.  

Cruz, an immigrant, added that when her partner and son were released, several organizations, neighbors, lawyers and family members tried to prevent them from “being kidnapped by immigration officials, but, sadly, at that moment, New York City Police (NYPD) officers collaborated with federal agents and blocked the protests.”

Sergeant Jessica McRorie, spokesperson for the NYPD, reacted by saying that the department does not carry out any immigration enforcement procedures. 

“We only hand over an individual after a court order is issued by a federal judge, or if the person has been convicted of a violent or serious crime or is on a terrorist watchlist,” said the agent. 

Marie DeLuca, a physician affiliated with the health providers network of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, had access to Avendaño-Hernández’s records at the Maimonides Hospital. The records, she said, determined that “as a result of the injuries he sustained during the raid, he developed a case of rhabdomyolysis, a condition that causes muscle breakdown and the subsequent release of protein into the blood, which may lead to electrolyte imbalance, kidney failure and death.” The emergency physician said that Avendaño-Hernández had no previous medical or health issues. 

Upon his release, Avendaño-Hernández was ordered [by the doctors] to rest, hydrate and avoid exercise, heat conditions and activities that may cause dehydration.

However, as DeLuca explained, he was isolated for 24 hours, denied phone calls with his family, was not given cutlery to eat with, and his clothes were taken away between January 8 and 10.  

Organizations reported that “he only had access to water every eight hours and had trouble sleeping due to his lodging.”

This complaint coincides with the expected arrival of elite special border patrol units in “sanctuary cities” such as New York to assist ICE agents in the arrests of undocumented people. Activists suspect that this persecution will escalate. 

Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, chair of the council’s Committee on Hospitals, said that local legislators “need to make sure that a similar situation does not take place in any other New York City hospital without the proper protocols.”

From January 1, 2020, the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) has documented the activity of immigration agents across the Big Apple. A total of 49 detention or attempted arrests by ICE have been reported in the five boroughs, most of them in Brooklyn and The Bronx. 

The organization is also condemning the use of deceitful tactics on the part of federal agents, such as passing as members of the NYPD in order to enter the homes of immigrant people without a court order. 

Menchaca is promoting a resolution asking Congress to pass a law forbidding Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents from wearing clothing items or carrying equipment with the word “police” on them. It also demands that federal authorities prevent their agents from identifying themselves as police officers while enforcing immigration law in New York.

“ICE is shooting unarmed tourists in the face and getting away with it. Now, border patrol units are coming to New York City to join them. We cannot allow this authoritarianism to increase,” he said.