Peekskill teen Jefferson Arpi Ordoñez doesn’t know if his family will ever be together again after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained his father in October.
On the night of October 31, Ordoñez said ICE officers entered his Peekskill home and arrested his father, Manuel Armando Arpi, an undocumented immigrant who came to America from Ecuador in 1995.
“It’s really hard for me to think about my dad being locked up like an animal, being stripped from his freedom and his family,” Ordoñez, 14, said. “It’s wrong, it’s inhumane, it’s not right. I just want him to come back home.”
The father of two sons, who is behind bars in Orange County Correctional Facility, is now at risk of deportation. The family said their law abiding, hard-working, taxpaying patriarch is their main provider and deserves to come home.
“He wants me and my brother to have a better future, a future that he couldn’t have and I just can’t believe he’s just locked up because he came from another country,” Ordoñez said. “He’s everything we have. If he goes, our future goes. Everything goes with him.”
Ordoñez added that his family is appealing the arrest urging ICE officials to re-open his father’s case, stating that he was only 17 years old when he entered the country and was unaware of how to obtain citizenship.
The family has also received an outpouring of support from the community, with more than 50 residents gathering in the bitter cold Friday night at Assumption Church in Peekskill for a candlelit vigil. Attendees held signs reading, “Don’t deport Manuel,” and chanted, “Yes we can,” in Spanish, while praying for Arpi’s swift release.
Peekskill High School Principal Arthur Rodney said it was very important for him, as an immigrant, to attend the vigil and support his students in whatever way he can.
“The holiday season is upon us and it’s a time for families to be together and it’s a very difficult time for the family knowing their father is not there,” Rodney said. “As someone who was an immigrant who also had to travel many borders to get here and had an opportunity, Manuel deserves that opportunity himself.”
Peekskill Councilman-elect Ramon Fernandez was pleased to see so many people from different faiths within the community support the family. He added that the Apri family are active members of the Assumption Church and is hopeful for a positive outcome.
“When you see kids on Christmas Day not have a dad it’s hard,” Fernandez said. “We have hope for the Lord that maybe they’ll give Manuel an opportunity to go to court. We are very positive and we have faith.”