A photo obtained of Erick Diaz in Maimonides hospital after ICE shot him in the face
By Nélida Tello
On February 6, plainclothes agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations Team tazed Mexican immigrant Erick Díaz-Cruz before shooting the 26-year-old in the face, outside of his mother’s house in Gravesend, Brooklyn. The federal agents were serving Gaspar Avendano-Hernandez, 33, Díaz’s mother’s boyfriend, with a deportation order when Díaz intervened to aid Avendano. Soon after, activists and community members mobilized to protest the shooting outside the hospital where ICE took Diaz.
Earlier in the week, ICE had attempted to issue a detainer request while Avendano was in New York Police Department (NYPD) custody, for driving with a forged license plate. Detainers are issued by ICE in order to gain custody of undocumented immigrants from other law enforcement agencies for deportation.
Following Avendano’s release, federal agents tracked him down and cornered him outside his home as we was on his way to work Thursday morning. When he ran back to his house for a tool he had forgotten, two federal agents wrestled Avendano to the ground as they attempted to arrest him.
Footage of the altercation show Avendano struggling and yelling in Spanish before being tazed. Witnesses report that shortly after Avendano was attacked, Erick Díaz-Cruz, was also tazed and then shot. According to Kevin Yañez-Cruz, Diaz’s younger brother who witnessed the incident, Díaz was unarmed when the federal agents tackled him and shot him at point blank range, hitting Díaz’s hand before ricocheting onto his face.
“[The agent] literally points the gun at my brother and didn’t even hesitate,” Yañez told bourgeois local news outlet WABC.
Without providing further details, ICE reported that both Díaz and Avendano had been transported to Maimonides Hospital under their custody, despite Díaz holding a 10 year visa. In an attempt to portray the federal agents as the victims of the altercation, ICE also reported the hospitalization of two agents who were released shortly after being admitted. Díaz remains hospitalized and in critical condition following the shooting.
Activists, clergy, and progressive organizations quickly mobilized outside Maimonides Hospital the day of the shooting. The protesters demanded that hospitals be treated as a sanctuary site and ICE be kept out. In attendance was Erick’s family.
During the rally, a woman attempted to antagonize the group, shouting, “Thank god we have ICE!” sparking protesters to drown out her chants with, “Abolish ICE!” Solidarity with working class immigrants against ICE persecution is necessary, but the call to “Abolish ICE” obscures US imperialism as the source of the fascist agency, implying that if ICE were abolished immigrant communities would be free of persecution and harm. ICE alone cannot be abolished, the only way for immigrant communities to be protected is by organizing to overthrow US imperialism.
The following morning, ICE agents finalized Avendano’s arrest, escorting him from Maimonides Hospital while NYPD assisted. Both law enforcement agencies confronted protesters who had stood watch all night outside of Maimonides Hospital, forcibly removing them as they stood in the way of the ICE vehicle transporting Avendano to Hudson County Jail in Kearny, New Jersey.
On Sunday, February 9, activists held a vigil outside of the jail where Avendano is being held, demanding his freedom and condemning the deportation of a key eyewitness of Diaz’s shooting.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio lauded NYPD for not cooperating with ICE at the time of Avendano’s first arrest earlier in the month and condemned the shooting for happening in a sanctuary city, ignoring NYPD’s support for ICE’s operations to subdue protesters.
Had the immigration detainer been approved by NYPD, Avendano would have been held past his release date and custody would have been turned over to ICE. New York, a so-called ‘sanctuary city’, limits police collaboration with ICE, resulting in the rejection of most detainers. Exceptions are made for convicts with serious or violent felonies. But sanctuary cities are only the pacifying propaganda of liberal politicians, and just as they were put in place they can be taken away.
Rachael Yong Yow, a spokesperson for ICE, stated that the rejection of the immigration detainer at the time of Avendano’s first arrest “forced ICE officers to locate [Avendano] on the streets of New York rather than in the safe confines of a jail.”
President Donald Trump pressed a similar line during his State of the Union speech last week, pointing to a separate incident where he said NYPD released an immigrant from custody who went on to rape and murder an elderly woman. Trump asserted, “If the city had honored ICE’s detainer request, his victim would be alive today.” NYPD responded that they had never received any detainer request from ICE.
In Mayor De Blasio’s statements on Diaz’s shooting, he called ICE an “illegitimate force,” pandering not only to liberals who ignore US imperialism’s own illegitimacy, but to placate his police force, which seeks to present itself as a local force of good among the people and demarcate itself from the supposedly more ruthless federal immigration enforcement.
Regardless of the image of ICE and NYPD being at odds, or the illusion of sanctuary cities, both agencies work together to sustain the rule of US imperialism at home. Refuge will be won once the US imperialist system is overthrown, and it’s no longer able to unleash its terror in the streets or across the globe.