Green Card Was in Sight

Detained by ICE, Luis Marin-Castro is in limbo

Since three Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested Luis Marin-Castro while he was unloading a trailer outside Wainscott Main Wine and Spirits on April 9, the 31-year-old, who has lived in East Hampton for 20 years, has endured a Kafkaesque journey from Wainscott to Hackensack, N.J., to Milan, N.M., to El Paso, Tex., and, finally back to Chaparral, N.M., where he has been in custody since Tuesday morning. 

At the same time, family, friends, and colleagues from the wine shop, where he has worked for the past year, and Nick and Toni’s restaurant in East Hampton, where he is a dining room captain and sommelier, have labored tirelessly to obtain information about his case and to secure his release. 

To that end, a GoFundMe campaign established by Meredith Thompson and Rob Villavicencio had raised more than $52,000 as of yesterday. Chimene Macnaughton, the manager of Wainscott Main, has led the effort to secure legal representation for Mr. Marin-Castro, an Ecuadorean citizen, and to provide the attorneys with more than 50 letters of support and other information that establish his deep ties in the East Hampton community.

Ms. Macnaughton pointed out that Mr. Marin-Castro, who is married to Pia Bazzani, an American citizen, had originally been scheduled for biometrics on Friday. Biometrics is part of the process of obtaining a green card. “Everyone has said the fingerprinting appointment means you’re done, you’re in the clear,” she said. She added that he was less than a month away from completing his three-year probation track for a 2015 misdemeanor charge of drunken driving.

“It makes you wonder if they have no other information on these people they pick up,” she said. “If you look at him on paper, he has two high-level professional, managerial jobs. You don’t get to where he is in the wine industry by accident or by just being a busboy at Nick and Toni’s. We’re a week in and we’re all trying to figure out why they picked him.”

ICE is an important source of contracts for private prisons, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting, and ICE initially took Mr. Marin-Castro to a private prison in Hackensack. His supporters contacted New York City immigration attorneys and were told there was no deportation order on file as of April 10. A lawyer was set to visit Mr. Marin-Castro on April 11, but at 4 that morning his wife received a phone call that he was being moved to New Mexico. 

According to Ms. Macnaughton, who has spoken with Mr. Marin-Castro several times since then, “He didn’t know where he was going. They put him on this plane that said ICE Air on the outside. Those are the charter deportation planes. Obviously they couldn’t deport him without a hearing, but still it makes you panic.” His destination turned out to be the Cibola County Correctional Center, another privately owned prison. Like the Hackensack site, Cibola is an overflow jail, and an ICE contract facility. 

Once his supporters determined his location last Thursday morning, Ms. Macnaughton, who has contacts in Dallas and Austin, was referred to Noble and Vrapi, a leading immigration law firm with offices in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, N.M., and El Paso. 

Andres Santiago, a lawyer for the firm, met with Mr. Marin-Castro briefly, and arrangements were made for a return visit. He also informed Ms. Macnaughton that because there is no immigration court in New Mexico, Mr. Marin-Castro would eventually have to be moved to Denver or El Paso for his hearing.

Just five days after Mr. Marin-Castro arrived at Cibola, before his second scheduled conference with Mr. Santiago, there was once again no bed for him. He was able to phone his father before he was put on a bus to El Paso on Tuesday, but that eight-hour bus trip turned into a 24-hour journey, as he was also turned away from El Paso because of overcrowding. 

Mr. Marin-Castro is now in custody in the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, which is 30 miles from El Paso, and his East Hampton team is hopeful that his scheduled appointment today with the El Paso arm of Noble and Vrapi will proceed without further delay.

Mr. Santiago said that, while the move to El Paso was expected, it was not ideal, since judges are more conservative in Texas. Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, is one of nine in favor of revoking Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which provides protection for some individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

Nonetheless, Mr. Santiago said he is “fairly optimistic.” The firm is preparing a bond motion, which it hopes to file next week at the latest. Once the hearing is held and Mr. Marin-Castro is bonded out, he can return to East Hampton, and the firm will try to get the immigration hearing transferred to New York.

“While he is deportable, once you’re in deportation proceedings, you can raise what are called ‘forms of relief.’ Since Luis and his wife had started the process of obtaining a green card before his detention, they are probably going to be able to do that in front of the deportation court. If they can’t complete that process there, they can do most of it while he is in the States,” Mr. Santiago said. His family connections and the amount of time he has lived in this country are prerequisites for “cancellation of removal,” another form of relief, and should also work in his favor, the lawyer said. 

Because he is undocumented, the drunken driving incident likely triggered Mr. Marin-Castro’s apprehension and elimination of his protection under DACA. “One attorney told me they haven’t seen aggressive grabs like this in 10 years, since Bush,” said Ms. Macnaughton. “Imagine all the resources you need to deal with all the steps along the way, and how few people in Luis’s position have them.”

She said that donations have been received from the highest levels of the wine industry. “People who own import companies have given $1,000 apiece,” and longtime customers of the wine shop and Nick and Toni’s have been extremely generous. 

“Luis has been working for the shop and the New York wine community for the past year. I’ve taken him to every single tasting in New York, so he has been on a broader stage since coming to the store. Every single person gets him and adores him. You can see his ability immediately. He’s an incredible taster and an incredible salesperson.”