With a call to #FreeTheSilvas, the daughter of a couple who were detained last week on a visit to their son-in-law at a military base made a tearful plea Wednesday to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to let her parents go home.
“My parents are both ill and in need of a lot of medical attention,” Perla Silva said. “All I ask today is for my parents to be freed immediately.
“Who can assure us that they’re being taken care of the way that they need to be?”
Her emotional press conference came a week after Concepción and Margarito Silva, ages 49 and 59, planned to enjoy July Fourth by visiting their daughter and son-in-law at Fort Drum, an Army base in upstate New York.
But their Independence Day ended in a federal detention facility after the military base reported the grandparents, who live in Brooklyn, New York, and are originally from Mexico, to ICE for being in the United States without proper documentation.
The detention of the Silvas – who have no apparent criminal record and have significant health problems – has caused outrage among immigrant rights groups who see it as another example of how the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies are harming families.
“I just have one question to this administration and to everybody in America watching: Do you feel safer now?” New York City Council member Francisco Moya asked. “Did this arrest by ICE – they took two seniors visiting their family at an Army base – is that what you believe makes our country safer? I don’t think so.”
Perla Silva, one of the couple’s three adult children, said her parents both recently had surgery and will miss important medical appointments. Her family, including her young daughter, is devastated and wants answers, Silva said.
“My daughter cries out every day, and she wants her grandparents home. ‘What time are they coming home?’ My father, who has been the only father that she’s known, needs to come home to my daughter,” Silva said.
Fateful visit to Fort Drum
The situation began when Concepción and Margarito Silva went to Fort Drum to visit their daughter and her husband, a sergeant in the 10th Mountain Division who has been deployed twice to Afghanistan, according to CNN affiliate Spectrum News NY1.
The Silvas attempted to enter the military base near Watertown, New York, without approved identification, according to Julie Halpin, spokeswoman at Fort Drum. They presented their municipal New York City ID cards, which were not deemed sufficient.
Security personnel found a discrepancy with their passports and then called US Border Patrol, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman said.
The couple admitted to Border Patrol agents they were in the United States illegally, said the customs spokesman, adding they were charged with being present in the country without admission or parole.
The spokesman said the husband and wife had medications with them and were allowed to take them when needed and store them in a refrigerator.
The Silvas were taken to the nearby Wellesley Island Border Patrol station, where they received a special meal prepared by their relatives because of their medical conditions, the spokesman said.
The couple were then transported to the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, New York, and turned over to ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations to await a hearing with an immigration judge, the customs spokesman said.
The arrest of the Silvas was a “slap in the face” to all military families, said Daniel Altschuler of Make the Road New York, an immigrant rights advocacy group.
Comparisons to a similar arrest
Eduardo Silva, another one of the couple’s children, said his parents have been in the United States for about two decades and obtained a work permit from the Labor Department in 2007.
“All my dad ever does is work, work, work, work,” he told CNN affiliate NY1. “He doesn’t go hang out, he doesn’t do this and that, no. He just works for his family. And this is his first time trying to take a vacation, and this happens to him, and it’s not fair.”
He said he was primarily worried about his parents’ health issues and how the detention will affect them.
“She did not need this stress, and the more stress she gets, the closer for her to dying,” he said about his mother through tears.
The detention has drawn comparisons to that of Pablo Villavicencio, a pizza deliveryman who was turned over to immigration officials after trying to drop off food at a military base in Brooklyn. The undocumented immigrant from Ecuador similarly showed his New York City ID to security and then was detained.
Villavicencio, whose wife and two daughters are US citizens, was set to be deported until a federal court temporarily blocked his removal.