Protesters demand release of detained Ossining H.S. student

Posted: Updated:
OSSINING -

Dozens of people at Ossining High School spent the day before graduation protesting the detention and potential deportation of a teenager from Ecuador.

Diego Puma, 19, and his mother were detained last week by immigration officials on the day of his prom. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Puma will remain in detention because he was allegedly involved with gangs in his native Ecuador.

However, Puma's family says that Puma fled to the United States to get away from gang activity.

"We want everyone to know, he is not a criminal. He wasn't in a gang," says Puma's cousin, Gabriela Macancela. "We want to make that clear. We have proof."

Puma is currently in an Orange County corrections facility with his mother. The family's legal counsel says they will most likely remain there through the deportation process, which could take months.

As protesters fight for Diego, Ossining police officers say they are enhancing community outreach between them and the large immigrant population.

"Our No. 1 goal is for our officers to be available as possible and for people to understand we're here to help," says Chief Kevin Sylvester.

News 12 was told Diego would not have participated in the graduation ceremony Saturday even if he was released since he didn't have enough credits to graduate.

In a letter obtained by News 12, the Ecuadorian government said it looked into allegations of Puma's gang activity and found nothing. It says Puma was not in a gang and has no criminal record.

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