Wanted By ICE, Two Frozen In Legal Limbo

With deportation looming over their heads, two men arrested recently by Sag Harbor Village police remain in jail, in a form of legal limbo. One of them faces certain deportation, according to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The other’s fate remains much more uncertain.

Antonie Chin, 38, of Riverhead, Marco Saban, 36, of Southampton, and a man identified by ICE as Hector Anibal Suroy Velasquez, 25, also known as Eduardo Velasquez, 24, were in Sag Harbor, looking for the owner of a landscaping company on Rysam Street the afternoon of June 5. They knocked on the door and entered what they believed to be the landscaper’s house, according to Velasquez’s attorney, Rita Bonicelli.

They had entered the wrong house. The resident of the house they entered called police, as the men fled. The three were arrested, charged with trespassing.

While Saban had to be released in order to be admitted to the hospital for a medical condition, the other two have been in custody since.

Velasquez and Chin, both from Guatemala, were brought to Sag Harbor Village Justice Court on Friday, June 22. Chin’s attorney, Robert Santucci, huddled with him, speaking through a translator. After 20 minutes, they came out of the conference room. Santucci said as he walked toward the courtroom that Chin was ready to make a deal.

“He’s got no priors,” Santucci said. “He has been in the country for 14 years.” Most important, Santucci said, there was no ICE detainer for Chin. In Santucci’s mind, Chin would be sentenced to time served, and likely released that day.

However, when Chin stood before Sag Harbor Village Justice Lisa Rana, Santucci learned that there appeared to be an ICE detainer request after all, according to paperwork the judge had received from the jail, even though the actual detainer document was not on file with the court.

This has become an increasingly common occurrence in East End courthouses, detainer requests without an accompanying detainer request form, with judges and defense attorneys operating in the dark as to the actual status of defendants in relation to ICE.

One example in recent weeks is that of Francisco Lauro Mones-Tonacatl. He had been arrested by East Hampton Village police May 11 on a felony drunk driving charge. There was no detainer document on file.

Mones-Tonacatl’s attorney, Matthew D’Amato, not knowing that a hold request had been made with the police, told the court during the arraignment that his client would be posting the $5000 bail amount set by Justice Rana, who also sits in East Hampton. Mones-Tonacatl’s family raised the $5000, and posted it, only to learn that he would not be freed after all. He is currently in ICE custody.

A similar situation played itself out in East Hampton last week. D’Amato asked Justice Rana if there was a detainer on a defendant. “I don’t see one but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” she replied. That defendant posted $300 bail immediately and was released. Velasquez and Chin both had bail set at $500 when they were first arrested.

After Justice Rana told Santucci Friday that there appeared to be a hold request on Chin, she added that Chin needed to consult with an immigration attorney, to learn the ramifications of entering a guilty plea to his remaining in the United States.

For Velasquez, it is the second time he has been picked up by ICE. “He has already been removed from the country,” Rachael Yong Yow, spokeswoman for ICE, said Monday. Velasquez had been picked up in Texas in 2011. Once deported, “his final order of removal is automatically renewed,” meaning it is still valid for ICE to act on.

Bonicelli, who was appointed by the court to represent Velasquez, explored bringing in an immigration attorney to consult before taking a plea, as well. However, it appears that no matter what an immigration attorney advises Velasquez, he is headed for deportation. “It is the prerogative of the local jurisdiction,” Yong Yow explained about the process. ICE will not pick him up until the local matter is resolved in court.

“The options that are facing him are challenging,” Bonicelli said about Velasquez. “It would be helpful if I could find a family member, or an outside support system who could help him get through these challenges.”

“If you are alone in the system, without anyone on the outside, when you have immigration issues, and you get taken into the system, there is no one there to look out for you,” said Colin Astarita, a local attorney who has dealt extensively with similar cases and was in the courtroom that day on an unrelated matter. “There are times when people can post bond, if they have family, even if they have been convicted or are in jail, they can post bond and have a chance within the immigration system.”

Both men will be brought back to Sag Harbor July 7.

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