Rome, N.Y. — John Collins was standing outside the milk house at his dairy farm this morning when he heard yelling coming from inside. He ran in, he says, and saw his worker, Marcial de Leon Aguilar, pinned up against the window by armed men.
The men did not identify themselves and were screaming at Aguilar, Collins said.
“I run and say, ‘What the hell is going on in here?'” Collins said.
Then the men told Collins they were officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He asked them for a warrant or some paperwork to explain what they were doing. They had none, he said, so he ordered them to get off his property and leave Aguilar alone.
As this happened, Collins said, Aguilar’s children watched. They were waiting nearby for the school bus to come. Collins said the officers put Aguilar in handcuffs and took him across the rural road to their vehicles. At least seven officers had come onto the small farm, Collins said.
Adrian Smith, a spokesman for ICE, said he was looking into the situation and would comment when he knew more.
Collins said he followed the officers cross the street and asked them why they were taking Aguilar, but he didn’t get a straight answer. He also continued to ask for paperwork, but was not offered any by the ICE officers.
Aguilar and his wife, Virginia, are Guatemalan. Aguilar has worked for Collins for about nine months, Collins said. Aguilar, his wife, and his children live in a home on Collins’ property.
Collins said Aguilar had proper documentation to work for him. And he’s been paying taxes since working for Collins.
Aguilar’s wife, Virginia, and the couple’s four children were not in the U.S. until recently. She was caught crossing the border, illegally, with the children. Collins said she has been meeting with ICE officers since she arrived, and is seeking asylum for herself and the children because of the violence in Guatemala. Collins said Virginia met with ICE officers as recently as last week, and has another meeting scheduled for this Friday. At times, Aguilar has accompanied his wife, who is pregnant, to some of the meetings, Collins said.
Collins said he isn’t sure why ICE officers came for Aguilar and he was upset that they came onto his property without any notification or permission and roughed up Aguilar in front of his four children.
Just like police officers, ICE officers are required to provide a warrant before they go onto private property.
“ICE needs a warrant. If they go on someone’s property without one, they are violating the law,” said immigration law expert and Cornell law professor Stephen Yale-Loehr.
Collins said the officers gave him nothing when he continued to ask.
Collins followed the ICE officers across as they took Aguilar, in handcuffs, to their three waiting vehicles.
“I told them you can’t come in here without a warrant,” Collins said. “They can’t take someone and throw them up against the wall because of the color of their skin.”
Collins attempted to take photos and video with his phone. When he did that, he said, one of the ICE officers grabbed his phone and threw it into the road. Then they handcuffed him and threatened to arrest him for hindering a federal investigation, he said.
But then the officers uncuffed him and left with Aguilar in the backseat of a dark Dodge Caravan.
“This was something you see on TV,” Collins said. “You don’t expect it to be here.”
Updated ; Posted