NEW YORK — Relatives of a Mexican couple detained while trying to visit their pregnant daughter at an Army fort in upstate New York are asking immigration officials to set the couple free.
Concepción and Margarito Silva were arrested by federal immigration officials on July 4 after they arrived at Fort Drum for a holiday visit with their daughter and their enlisted son-in-law, who live on the base.
He went from delivering pizza to being detained by immigration officers.
The couple, who live in Brooklyn, appear to have attracted the attention of base security personnel after they presented New York City-issued identification cards at the fort’s gate.
Guards asked to see a different form of ID. When they presented Mexican passports, military police contacted Customs and Border Patrol agents, who detained them.
Concepción, 49, and Margarito, 59, have been in the U.S. for more than 20 years without authorization. They remain held at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Batavia, New York.
Their daughter, Perla Silva, held a news conference with immigration advocates and New York City lawmakers Wednesday in Brooklyn, where she wiped away tears and said her mother should be released because she has a serious heart condition that requires medication.
“We need to get my parents out now!” she said, sobbing.
The daughter said that she spoke with her mother last night, who was frightened after the woman she was sharing a cell with threatened her. The woman was removed from the cell.
The incident was similar to another one that attracted public attention on June 1, when a citizen of Ecuador making a pizza delivery at an Army fort in Brooklyn was detained after presenting New York City’s identification card to the guards there.
That man was also asked to show additional identification and was detained after a background check revealed there was a warrant for his arrest for immigration law violations.
While the active duty members themselves are protected — because in order to enlist a service member has to show proof that they are in the country legally — their undocumented spouses are not.
Both he and the Silvas said they had visited military installations before without any problems.
Officials at Fort Drum and at Fort Hamilton, where the pizza deliveryman was arrested, said that Defense Department procedures require civilian visitors to present certain types of identification to get access to the base. New York’s city-issued card, which was initially marketed to the public as a way for unauthorized immigrants to get official identification, is not among the accepted forms of ID.
Customs and Border Protection said in a statement the Silvas acknowledged to border agents who interviewed them at Fort Drum that they were present in the U.S. illegally. They are now awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, who could order them released.
Panshu Zhao is one of the dozens of immigrant recruits and reservists struggling with abrupt, often unexplained military discharges and canceled contracts.
CBP said in its statement that the Silvas have access to their medications. The agency also said that while they were being processed at a border post, agents had met with family members not in custody and allowed them to deliver “a meal prepared by the family for the individuals in custody due to their medical condition.”