By ARIEL HERNANDEZ
After 20 days in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center, Alfredo Flores, 36, a Mexican native, was reunited with his family in Jackson Heights on Wednesday.
On July 16, Flores, who has lived in the United States for more than 10 years, boarded a Greyhound bus to Seattle to visit his brother for a work project, not knowing that the bus would take a detour to Canada, where he was picked up by ICE.
Flores was taken to a detention center in Batavia, New York. Flores called his wife, Wendy Valverde, asking her to seek help in getting him released so he could continue to provide for their three children.
“When this all began, I didn’t know what to do when I got the call that my husband was detained,” said Valverde. “I felt the world was coming over me. I felt very lost and I didn’t know what to do. Along the way, I met people who wanted to give me advice, but nothing that really gave me some light to get out of this problem.”
The Jackson Heights Post, a local community newspaper, published a story about Flores’ detainment, catching the attention of Catalina Cruz, who is running for the 39th District Assembly seat.
“Alfredo is one of millions of undocumented immigrants who have come to this country simply because he’s looking for a better life for his family and his children,” said Cruz.
Cruz reached out to Valverde to provide an attorney and legal services, so that her husband could be reunited with his family.
“Because of people like her, we were able to get support and to know that we’re not alone,” said Valverde. “We’re not committing a crime. It’s not a crime to go to work and provide for our families. All that my husband wants is to provide for his family.”
Flores said that in his early days at the detention center, he felt that his future with his children was uncertain. But after hearing that Cruz reached out to help, he became more hopeful.
Through $7,000 that Valverde obtained by disclosing the family’s story on Facebook and an additional $3,000 she received from local residents—as well as assistance from Cruz, who put Valverde in touch with lawyers—the family was able to reunite earlier this week.
Unless his case gets transferred, Flores is due back in court on Aug. 21. For now he is back with his family. He plans to gain his U.S. citizenship so that he never has to undergo such a scenario again.