I stopped into Hampton Bagel in East Hampton the other day and spoke to my old friend Bob Schepps, who runs the place. We’ve known each other 30 years. After we exchanged pleasantries I asked him how he was, and he told me he was exhausted, working 14 hours a day.
“I work two shifts here every day. It’s been 87 days now. I’m counting the days until I can find a new bagel maker. Til then, I’m doing two jobs.”
The product is Jewish, Schepps is Italian, the bagel maker is Hispanic. Only in America.
Here is the backstory to this. The latest chapter in “Only in America.”
Carlos Marinado came here 14 years ago and, through his brother who was working as a bagel maker at another shop in Hampton Bays, got a job as the bagel maker at Hampton Bagel. Bob paid him, as he pays everybody who works for him, by check, with deductions taken out. Marinado had work papers. Shortly afterwards, the federal government gave him an EIN number, which allowed him to pay taxes. Soon Carlos got married to another immigrant, Maria, and they set up house in this area. Last year he was issued a Social Security card by the federal government, and also last year, New York State issued him a driver’s license. With these advances, he was able to get a mortgage, and he bought a house in East Hampton for himself and his wife and their three children, ages 13, 6 and 2.
“Carlos could have bought a house in Hampton Bays for half the price,” Bob told me, “but he wanted for his kids to be able to stay in the East Hampton School district, where they are now. In July, he went to New York City to meet with immigration officials, as he has done once a year, every year. In all this time he’s never been in any trouble. Then he vanished.
“He drove in with his wife and two of his three kids. The meeting was at 9 a.m. He met his lawyer there. This lawyer had helped get him his Social Security card, the driver’s license and now was trying to move this still further forward,” Bob continued. “Carlos had letters of support from friends, from me, from his colleagues at the store. His wife waited in the car for him to come out. He never did.”
I know what you are thinking. He must have done something. But according to Bob, Carlos had never been arrested, never spent a day in jail. So out front of the federal building, Maria waited and waited. Carlos (I have not used his real name for this story) never came out. His lawyer never came out. Finally, at 7 p.m., she got a phone call. It was the only call he was being allowed. And it was collect. She tried to use her debit card, but it wouldn’t go through. Her bank account had been emptied. She called Carlos’s friends who work at the store and got a credit card number to pay for the call.
Take care of the kids, Carlos told her. I’m in a jail in New Jersey.
Everyone knows what that means. They were shipping him out. She got in the car and drove home. And she’s been home ever since, with their three kids, struggling. As this is written, he’s been gone 77 days. Back to Ecuador.
I’ve learned that on the Spanish language cable channel Univision (channel 6 on Cablevision here), some commentators are warning Hispanic viewers every single day NOT to continue to go in for the annual meeting anymore. It was okay to go during the Bush administration—when Carlos Marinado began going in—and during the Obama administration, and as recently as January.
During those earlier administrations there was the belief that, as time went by, there would be a path to citizenship. Congress would pass something. Even Immigration believed it. Carlos was a good man. That’s why, through the lawyer, he had gotten his Social Security number, a driver’s license and an EIN number.
The cost for a lawyer varies, but they are generally $5,000 up front to open a case, then $100 every time you meet with the lawyer, or the lawyer and the authorities.
Many Hispanic residents here and all over the country are of the belief they need to stay out of sight. Not only those here illegally, but those here legally. If they are pulled over for a broken taillight or can’t show a legal driver’s license, they fear ICE will take them away.
“I hope every day I don’t get pulled over,” one Hispanic woman told me.
But New York is a sanctuary city, and Long Island follows sanctuary city sorts of protocols. More about this later. So what happened to Carlos Marinado?
Turns out there is more to this story. About six years ago, during the Obama Administration, Carlos was invited to become a member of the union whose membership includes all full-time workers at Hampton Bagel. Bob said that, at that time, after all these years, the union determined that Carlos’s papers were not in order. As a result, Bob told me, he should never have hired him. Bob asked the union whether, having learned this, he should fire him, and was told no. That would not be grounds and would only make matters worse.
“I am not some bleeding heart liberal,” Bob told me. “And I believe in America and hard work and getting ahead. I don’t think people should come here illegally and take advantage of us. He showed me papers that seemed correct. I was under the impression the lawyers would make it all right.”
Six years ago, when the mistake was discovered, according to an ICE official I spoke with, the lawyer asked the judge for an exemption for Carlos. This was during the Obama Administration. The judge ruled not to grant the exemption, and this put Carlos on a deportation list. Starting six years ago, the meetings have been to get that order delayed, which in every case they were. But this year, while his wife was outside, the court would delay no more. So off Carlos went, to New Jersey and then, three weeks later, to Ecuador. I was able to learn all this from the official at ICE.
I spoke to another ICE official who works in Suffolk County, and asked if ICE was picking people up for broken taillights. I was told they are not. They only pick up people whom they have a warrant to arrest from a judge, or who are known criminals they believe are in the area. (Neither apply to Carlos. He just walked into his problem in New York.) And they don’t go in at night.
I also spoke to the Chief of Police in East Hampton Village. If they pull over someone for a broken taillight or speeding or even no driver’s license, they just issue a ticket to either be paid by mail or to challenge in court, as anyone else might. They don’t call ICE.
I’ll give the last word to Bob.
“Carlos came here and took his chances. I took the chances with him. We won all these years and now we lost. But there’s a legacy. Carlos has three beautiful children, all American citizens. Their father is gone, back to Ecuador. But he’s left this wonderful legacy for them to make their future here in the greatest country in the world and they must be immensely grateful for that.”