Early last Sunday, March 1, ICE agents entered a local restaurant in Flatbush as the staff was preparing for the day ahead. They were looking for Maria.
They found her in the basement of La Cabaña restaurant, 1062 Flatbush Avenue, just off Beverley Road, pepper-sprayed her as well as other staff and the manager, a coworker recounted at a press conference organized outside the business earlier today. Maria was taken into custody.
State Senator Zellnor Myrie tweeted the video of the arrest.
Maria de los Angeles San Pimental, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, had overstayed her visa, officials confirmed – and came to the attention of the authorities after getting into a bar fight in late February. She was released without bail.
“It’s a very difficult situation for me, you know, we were only very recently able to get in touch with her,” Pimentel’s sister, Jenny Sanz, said at the rally through an interpreter. “It’s very emotional for us, very difficult for us. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone else for that to happen.”
Only two public officials were present – Senator Myrie and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
“I want people to fully and thoroughly understand the direness of what is occurring. This is not about public safety. ICE’s presence in New York City makes us all unsafe. The only people we are afraid of is ICE. That’s it,” Williams did not mince words, “Who are walking around on our streets and kidnaping our neighbors. That’s what’s occurring. And I’m calling everybody of good conscience to push back. To be present, to be an upstander, to bear witness of what’s going on. To make sure that the NYPD is doing absolutely nothing to help and work with ICE, to make sure our agencies are doing absolutely nothing to work, to assist with ICE; to look at our laws, to make sure if someone jumps the turnstile or something like that, that they won’t go into the system so that ICE might come for them. We can’t. No, we can no longer think about it, why do we have to look at our laws and make sure there’s nothing arcane. We are on some scary, scary times right now. There’s nothing that I know of that should result in what I saw on this video, of someone being shot in the face. I, as a public advocate, I must be here standing up for all residents of New York City.”
For Senator Zellnor Myrie this hit close to home.
“You know, I grew up on Flatbush Avenue, I still live on Flatbush Avenue a couple of blocks away from here. I am the son of two immigrants from Central America. And so when you talk to us about what the American dream is, the dream is to come and do exactly what Maria was doing, which is working hard and contributing to the community. And instead of being rewarded for being an upstanding member, we had ICE barge in and pepper spray her. Now, a lot of people have a lot of things to say about our immigration policies. But here in Brooklyn, the immigrants make Brooklyn great,” Myrie said.
“They are the fabric of our community. So if you attack one immigrant, you attack all of us. And we have money to the tune of billions of dollars to fund ICE agents coming into our restaurants. Well, we don’t have money to pay for our students and our schools. We don’t have money to invest in affordable housing. We don’t have money to help boost our small businesses. Well, we have billions, billions of dollars for ICE agents to come into our community.
“So we are standing with you today. We’re letting Maria know, Jenny know, all of our immigrants know we are together. Too many instances of violence against our immigrants. Our public advocate said it correctly. This isn’t about public safety. I know we got a lot of commentary about public safety these days, but this was a woman who was at work. She was at work, contributing to our community. So we have to stand against us because often times we look in history and we say, how did we get here? If I were alive at that time, I would not have stood for it. Well, guess what? Now is the time. We are in that time right now. And if you cannot stand up for the Marias of the world, we are in serious trouble. So we are sending a clear message to the president and to everyone who stands against us that you come after one. You better come after all of us. Thank you.”
Activists reminded business owners and neighbors that ICE cannot enter private premises without a warrant.
Whitney Hu, one of the organizers of the Sunset Park ICE Watch:
“ICE is not allowed into private spaces without a warrant. So you are able to say no to that threat. Maria was found in the basement. They could have said no. But it’s hard because I think this sort of information isn’t out there. They come in a crowd, and they confuse you. They do these things on purpose because they know that they can catch you when you’re off guard. So we need to make sure that our employers are just as visible. In the Bronx. When ICE recently came through with large rifles and knocked on every single door, they weren’t able to take one single person, even though they pretended to be the landlord. They pretended to be officers because nobody opened the door.
If you do not recognize someone, don’t open the door. And I say that with great pain because this is right before the Census. This sort of suppression is being done on purpose. Our neighbors know us. We have to reach out about the Census. Right now, our communities, they have to stay safe and we have to protect us. And finally, there were amazing organizations have been doing ICE and cop watches for a very long time.
If you are out there being like, how do I get involved? Find the closest I watch to you. Look for them. Go to an immigration organization if you don’t know one. And if you see ICE, if you see an unmarked car, even if you see NYPD, you start rolling your camera. ICE doesn’t let us know they take someone. We have been tracking video down. The NYPD officers don’t do this. We are the ones who are investigating to find our neighbors. And you need to join us because the more people on the ground covering every single incident, the more we’re able to bring our neighbors home.”