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An attorney who represented José L. Guzman several years ago has been unable to reach his client since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested the 32-year-old Mexican national this week in Ithaca.
Guzman remains detained at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, where he has been since Tuesday afternoon when ICE officers pulled up next to him near the corner of Cascadilla and Fourth streets in an unmarked vehicle and arrested him, according to a witness who spoke to The Sun shortly after the arrest.
Guzman is being held for “illegal entry,” Khalid Walls, an ICE spokesman, said on Thursday. Walls previously said Guzman is an “unlawfully present Mexican national” held at the facility “pending removal proceedings.”
“ICE focuses its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” Walls said. “However, as Secretary [of the Department of Homeland Security John] Kelly has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
The Ithaca attorney, Jeffrey D. Walker, was assigned to defend Guzman after he was arrested in 2013 by Ithaca Police, who charged him with assault and accused him of stabbing a man in the stomach. Guzman was bailed out shortly after the incident and prosecutors never indicted him on the charge, meaning the case is still pending.
“All of those in custody are provided information about free or low cost attorneys,” Walls said, apparently referring to lawyers who may be able to aid Guzman in arguing against his pending deportation.
But Walker is still representing Guzman on the Ithaca assault charge and has been “stuck in an answering service ‘loop’ at the facility” since Guzman’s arrest, the lawyer said in an email on Friday morning.
Daniel Johnson, the assistant district attorney handling Guzman’s local criminal case, proposed a deal to Walker to resolve Guzman’s assault case, although neither party has disclosed the terms of that offer because it is tentative.
Walker, in an email to The Sun on Friday afternoon, said he had reached general counsel for the facility, who was “willing to offer some assistance in getting the District Attorney’s offer to him.”
“There is still no easy way to get Jose on the phone calling in,” Walker said, adding: “I can only hope that, perhaps, by bringing finality to the open charge here in Ithaca, Jose may be able to return [to] the community sooner as opposed to later.
A regional Department of Justice spokesman, John Martin, said reporters would not be able to learn of any potential court dates relating to Guzman’s deportation case without an identification number for Guzman, which the spokesman said is usually ascertained from the person in custody or a lawyer.
“I have not spoken to José since ICE got involved, despite multiple efforts to get through to him at the facility via telephone,” Walker said.
SUNY Cortland Prof. Ute Ritz-Deutch, history, previously told The Sun that the average stay in detention facilities is about 30 days, but also emphasized that people can be deported in as little as two or three days, while many spend months or years appealing deportation.
Van Houten said he told Walker that if he cannot reach his client by phone, he might have to show up at the facility, which is about 100 miles away.
Walker said he has heard from multiple people in the community who were close to Guzman, all of whom spoke glowingly of him — “The sorts of things you hope might be said about yourself on your best day,” he said.
Three ICE agents pulled up beside Guzman in an unmarked vehicle as he was walking down Cascadilla Street on Tuesday and placed him under arrest, a Cornell student who witnessed the arrest previously told The Sun.
“Two guys stepped out and asked, ‘Is your name José?’ to which he replied ‘Yes,’ and ICE agents in vests nabbed him,” the student said.
The arrest sparked outrage in Ithaca and Tompkins County, where both localities have passed sanctuary legislation restricting some government employees from asking about a person’s immigration status or aiding ICE, except in certain cases.
More than 300 people, including many Cornell students and professors, attended a rally organized by Fabina Colon, director of Ithaca’s Multicultural Resource Center, and Carolina Osorio Gil, director of ¡Cultura! Ithaca, the day after Tuesday’s arrest.
Ithaca Attorney Ari Lavine said he spoke directly with an ICE field director on Wednesday and made it clear that Ithaca was upset with the agency’s arrest of Guzman, The Sun previously reported.
An Ithaca Police spokesman, Van Houten and Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 all said they were not informed of the targeted operation beforehand.
“This is not about safety, this is about fear,” the mayor said during the anti-ICE rally. “This is about exploiting those who are already afraid, but I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid because of what I see here.”