A couple visiting their son-in-law on a military base to celebrate July 4 were arrested by immigration officials and are being held in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in upstate New York.
Margarito Silva and Concepción Barrios, who live in New York City and are undocumented, were visiting their daughter and son-in-law, who is stationed at Fort Drum military base.
The couple presented their IDNYC cards at the entrance to the base, according to Daniel Altschuler, an advocate with Make the Road New York who has been working with the family. Government-issued IDNYC cards are available to all New York City residents regardless of their immigration status.
"The military officials questioned it and then they asked for a different form of identification and then they ultimately ended up calling Customs and Border Protection," Altschuler told BuzzFeed News. "CBP detained them and took them to an ICE detention facility, where they still are."
Julie Halpin, a spokesperson for the Fort Drum military base, told BuzzFeed News that the couple were asked for a second form of identification beyond the IDNYC cards because they are not part of state and national registries.
"So we can’t use that ID to verify it against anything else," she said. The couple then handed over their Mexican passports, she said, which security personnel looked at and found no valid visa or immigration document. Then the couple were not asked to leave, Halpin said, but instead, CBP was called. She said officials at the base "must call CBP" for "any issues we have that involve passports."
A spokesperson for CBP told BuzzFeed News in a statement that Border Patrol received a call from Fort Drum military police "regarding two individuals attempting to gain access to a federal facility."
"Border Patrol Agents responded and interviewed the couple who admitted to being illegally present in the United States. Both subjects were charged with being Present in the United States without Admission or Parole (INA 212A6A1)," the statement said, adding that the couple are being held at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, New York, in ICE custody, as they await a hearing before an immigration judge.
A spokesperson for ICE referred BuzzFeed News to CBP for comment, but said the couple have had no prior contact with ICE.
"We came to visit our family at Fort Drum, New York & They called BORDER PATROL on my parents. And within minutes as my 5 YEAR OLD watches her grandmother and my father whom is her only father being arrested, shes crying and what do i tell her now?" Perla Silva, one of the couple's daughters, wrote on Facebook two days after her parents were arrested.
Silva and Barrios' family say they have visited their son-in-law on military bases before and had no problem using just their IDNYC cards.
"Why were my parents singled out. Why was this time different than any times in the past we’ve all visited other bases. Military bases in Colorado, Hawaii, Fort Hamilton base," wrote Perla on Facebook.
Halpin, the Fort Drum spokesperson, said the city IDs have never been valid identification at the base.
"Nothing has changed as far as access control at Fort Drum. I can’t speak for the entire Army or for this family’s experience elsewhere — only here," she said.
Silva and Barrios' son, Eduardo Silva, told NBC 4 New York that his parents came to the US from Mexico without documents and have lived in New York for 20 years. He also said they were approved for work permits by the Department of Labor in 2007.
A Labor Department spokesperson said they couldn't provide any more information on this specific case without more details of what authorization Perla was referring to.
"We ask for all of the help possible to obtain answers of the injustice that occurred to my parents [who] have never even had a ticket in their lives and ever since they came to this country all they've ever done is work," wrote Perla on a GoFundMe page asking for donations to help her parents. "Work and work and work is all my parents know how to do. This would've been my father's 1st vacation taking off from all these years of work and all he wanted was to visit his daughter and son in law."
She later in a statement that her family "is devastated by what’s happened."
"We are most worried about my mother and father, who have serious health conditions," she said. "My father who is the only father that my daughter has ever known. She misses him dearly.
The family will be provided with a lawyer through New York's Liberty Defense Project, a state-run project to connect people with pro-bono immigration lawyers.
“The detention of Margarito Silva and Concepción Barrios as they were visiting their son-in-law on the Fourth of July goes against everything this country stands for. On a day when America is supposed to celebrate patriotism, the Trump Administration was punishing patriots here in New York," Tyrone Stevens, a spokesperson for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, told BuzzFeed News. "As we’ve done in similar cases, the administration is working with this family to ensure that they have legal counsel and all of the resources they need to fight this injustice."
Their story follows another incident in June in which a pizza delivery man, Pablo Villavicencio, was arrested at the Fort Hamilton military base after officials there rejected his IDNYC card and called ICE while he was trying to deliver an order to the base.
The IDNYC card was introduced by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015 and provides government-issued identification to all residents. The identification is recognized by the NYPD and city agencies.
"We are deeply concerned about any over-broad enforcement or profiling of immigrants seeking to enter military bases," Seth Stein, a spokesman for De Blasio's office, said.
The commissioner of the Department of Veteran Services has "elevated our questions and concerns" about policies regarding identification and enforcement activity, he added.