New Paltz business owner detained by ICE agents

Luis Martinez

Luis Martinez, head of the New Paltz construction company Lalo Group, was detained by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on January 16, and has been confined in a Goshen ICE facility since that date. Family members, and Martinez himself, were not immediately given the reason for his apprehension, but now know it relates to his deportation in 1997. Martinez has applied for a U visa — granted to victims of certain crimes who cooperate with police — but the backlog for those approvals has climbed since 2016.

Luis Martinez came to the United States with his mother from Mexico after the death of his father when he was three years old. He arrived in the U.S. at eight and eventually came to New Paltz, where he attended high school. His mother received amnesty and subsequently citizenship, but as Martinez was not born stateside, he was not granted that status for himself. That makes him a rare bird in his family; in addition to his mother, his children and his brother Sergio Raymundo are also citizens.

Because he had traveled back and forth over the border with his mother numerous times, when Martinez obtained a driver’s license at the age of 18, he decided to cross the border back into the United States on his own. That’s when he learned that his mother’s status as a citizen no longer protected him; he was detained and deported. ICE community relations officer Sonia Thomas, in an e-mail to New Paltz Town Board member Daniel Torres, asserted that Martinez has been deported twice, not once. According to his wife, Martinez was able to reenter the U.S. legally under a work visa. He started his construction company in 2002, building houses until he got a contract for a hotel in Poughkeepsie. Jobs in New York City allowed him to grow the business, which is now called Lalo Group.

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That the business has grown became clear in 2016, when Martinez acquired the “pit” property behind New Paltz Village Hall for $1.25 million and pitched an $80 million hotel and condominium complex for the 2.4-acre parcel. More than one iteration of that idea has emerged, any of which would require a zoning change to allow buildings of up to six and eight stories; Martinez has also formally expressed interest in purchasing the village-owned parking lot off Plattekill Avenue, which is adjacent to the pit.

More recently, Martinez financed La Charla, a Mexican restaurant run by his wife and owned by his mother, as a way to ensure lasting prosperity for his family. He also became an investing partner in Zero Place, even as his company was tapped as general contractor. The Zero Place proposal is for a mixed-use building to be constructed on the empty lot at the corner of Mulberry and North Chestnut streets. It would include 46 apartments over a floor of retail space; the entire structure is intended to be net-zero in regard to energy usage, hence the name. According to developer David Shepler, Martinez signed on both to do more local projects and to learn about high-energy-efficiency construction, which he hopes to apply to his pit project.

Martinez only became aware of his eligibility for a U visa three years ago as well, when he was exploring options to legally extend his stay, specifically seeking asylum. He witnessed the murder of his brother Jesus in Newburgh in 1998 and cooperated with authorities. Part of the application process for this non-immigrant visa is a police certification of helpfulness by the applicant. Spouses of eligible crime victims may also qualify.

His helpfulness in the murder case seems to be reflected in how he conducts himself in the community. Martinez, either personally or through his company, has made significant donations to St. Joseph’s church (and facilitated a Spanish-language mass there), Phillies Bridge Farm Project, the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce and numerous youth athletic teams. His wife said he summarizes his emphasis on community as, “I live here, I give here.” He is also in the planning stages of developing a scholarship for high school students in similar situations to his own; the money would be given in the name of Jesus Martinez.

The morning of January 16, while Tina was getting their three children onto their school buses, Luis Martinez headed to the Lalo Group offices on North Front Street. According to the account he since shared with his wife, a car was pulled in behind his as he arrived, and those in it approached and asked him to identify himself. Martinez countered by inquiring as to their motivation, and at some point the individuals produced a picture of Martinez and told him to get in their car. Martinez asked to see a warrant and for the right to contact an attorney, and — according to what was recounted to his wife over the phone — was advised he would “get in the car one way or the other.”

Fearing violence, Martinez complied; the agents also allegedly promised to show him the warrant once he did. However, no such document was produced, and it’s possible none existed. The documents used by ICE agents are sometimes referred to as warrants, but are generated internally without approval by any judge. Also called a civil detainer, this document is seen as extrajudicial by critics of the organization who seek to have the entire department abolished. Martinez asserted he was protected by his pending U visa, but the agents found no record of that application in their system.

It’s not immediately clear how his name may have come to the attention of ICE agents, and information provided through that office is extremely limited; a spokesperson who confirmed his detention cited privacy concerns for saying nothing more. Martinez was arrested four years ago for driving while intoxicated, but that matter was resolved. Councilman Torres believes it is unlikely something as old as that — or the earlier deportation — would have triggered the detention. Initially, Martinez wanted to keep his situation private, but friends and colleagues including Alex Baer and Torres convinced him that public discourse is more likely to help, rather than hinder, his efforts.

“Unfortunately, yet again we are seeing an example of our broken immigration system,” said Torres, who noted that this detention “serves no one” and sidelines a community member who “employs dozens” at two businesses.

Shepler said that work on Zero Place has not yet been impacted by the situation, but that he and the other partners are “watching closely” and “saddened” by the circumstances. “He contributes all over the place,” Shepler said, noting that Martinez “is deep in [New Paltz]” and “integral” to both the project and the community.

As of Thursday, no court date for Martinez was known.

There are 36 comments

  1. Elliot Ness

    ICE has become the Untouchables of our decade. No amount of contributions has stymied their efforts, at least not here. Must be easy pickens?

  2. The Yankee

    If you are here illegal, you are here illegal. It’s the law. If you want to get the required documents it’s your responsibility. ICE is here to do their job and they do it very well. As a citizen, if I don’t file my taxes, renew my driver’s license, pay my property taxes, I’d be penalized. No one is above the law.

      1. Thank you ICE

        “Filing” for a u-visa and actually having one are two different things. If I file for a driver’s licence and then run you over with a truck, am I a legal driver? Anyway, I am sure that his filing for the u-visa put him on ICS’s radar for his illegal status since he was 3 years old till the present. Let that be a lesson to all you illegals. If you rob a bank, don’t show up the next day with a deposit slip and a wad of cash. Being a witness to the murder of your own brother is hardly a circumstance to be granted a visa. If that were the case there would be bodies strewn out from the Maxican border to New Paltz.
        PS: you bleeding hearts are always such suckers when these articles are printed to push your buttons. I love it.

        1. Steve

          No, thank you is not appropriate here. You’re either a troll, a racist, or not reading the facts in this man’s situation.

          He was actually trying to do the right thing, and apply for the current required
          documentation. That’s not being a criminal, that’s being an upstanding citizen.
          He also has built a business here as a local and in fact hires people for good jobs. I’m curious if you are doing that in your private life? Or are you just sitting at home
          being hateful on the internet?

          Listen, no body in this discussion really believes if you are attemtping to follow
          the law, and you’ve contributed to our nation that you should be deported. At
          least I’d hope so since we are a nation of 100% IMMIGRATION. The only Americans who are native and legitimately hold any claim to this great land we unfortunately slaughtered in the name of ‘discovery’ or we’ve relgated to desolate reservations that hold virtually no future. So, you, and anyone else arguing this really has no right morally.

          Alas, folks like you are operating under the misquided idea that you for some
          reason hold the keys for everyone else. You don’t. And you won’t.

          And for people like Mr. Martinez who make a real contribution to the places they live, and are attemtping to do the right thing, they will ultimately win.

          One final thing – and I sure hope this gets published – You can’t even spell
          “Mexican” you idiot. That’s how stupid and racist you really are…you spelled it
          “Maxican”.

          Thank you for proving my point.

    1. gerry

      right on yankee noone is above the law
      be legal!!!! whats the problem? l e g a l
      nothing to do with race my parents are white and l e g a l from another country!!

  3. Rich

    I can’t see why our country isn’t able to do much, much better than this. It’s embarrassing.
    The Yankee, you go beyond the speed limit when driving? Your response is nonsensically rigid and overly simplistic.

  4. BDHoltzman

    “I’d be penalized”

    LOL. You white? Then try it someday. You male? It’s even easier. Look around the courtroom or watch what goes on in the street.

    This guy has done EVERYTHING he needed to do buy his application was just sat on. A guy with that much going on, if he were white, they’d have made him a citizen decades ago. And all he would have had to do was fill out a few forms and say “please.”

  5. World Govt

    in 100 years people will laugh at the word, “Border” we will be in a world government most likely governed by computers and robots.

    100 years from today New Paltz will be a much different place in a much different world. As we cant imagine.

  6. stop i.c.e.

    Luis Martinez, Welcome to the USA, God Bless You in your American Dream. We are with You and Voting to stop i.c.e.

    i.c.e. You are not welcome stop harassing innocent citizens of this small world.

    Dreamers are the real Americans.

    *p/s if you see i.c.e. agents in new paltz video tape them and expose who they are.

  7. Luis Martinez Day NPZ

    New Paltz should have an official day called “Luis Martinez Day” to honor the many dreamers,to show what kind of community we are, what kind of people we are, that we care, that we dont support mr trump and his horrible policy toward the many dreamers who live with us.

    Mr trump and i.c.e. must be stopped,

    God Bless, Luis Martinez, a go fund me page should be started and a protest at i.c.e office to identify these agents who we pay with our tax dollars.

    Abolish I.C.E. Vote I.C.E. out….. Support Luis Martinez, his family and the many Dreamers.,

    1. Ichabod Crane, Esq.

      How about a memorial at Zero to always honor his memory? Pay $50 to buy a brick with your name on it in the arbor garden next to the street with the big planters. And a plaque with his likeness and history? The handcuffs he was brought in on?

    2. Homer

      Martinez has applied for a U visa — granted to victims of certain crimes who cooperate with police.
      Exactly what crimes has Mr. Martinez committed?

  8. Bobby

    He had a long time to become a citizen. It sounded like he is s pretty successful businessman . He should have paid an immigration lawyer !! Now the shit hit the fan …. He needs to blame himself for being sneaky and a cheap bastard . I remember someone once saying If you don’t pay now you will pay later …It is his own fault and he deserves whatever he gets

    1. suny ps student

      No citizen from Mexico should ever need any papers in the U.S.A.

      Mexico is our close neighbor, we need to help each other, not build any wall.

      Trump must be removed from office asap.

    2. s.u.n.y. ps student

      He is a Citizen, he is an American, Mexico is part of America.

      America is not only the U.S.A. This man is an American Citizen.

      1. Advice for suny bs student

        Take youe own advice. Stand up fpr what you believe in. Take a trip to Mexico. When you get to the border tell the Mexican police what your professor taught you. Tell them that you do not need papers to enter Mexico because Mexico and the USA are one. No citzen of the USA should ever need papers to enter Mexico. Mexico is part pf America!
        When they release you from prison you can report back to your suny professor and tell him that he gave you bad information.

        1. s.u.n.y. ps student

          U.S.A. many many many many mass shootings.

          Guns illegial in Mexico, only guns in Peaceful Mexico come form Violent U.S.A.

          Your clear Lack of a college degree shows.

  9. Thomas

    Nice guy? Google Lalo construction / Sergio Reymundo and you’ll come up with some interesting facts. In March 2016, Lalo construction and Sergio – Luis’s brother plead guilty to shorting workers over $800,000 on a publicly funded job inNYC. They were convicted and have to pay NYS close to 1 million dollars and could not work on any publicly funded project for 5 years. What a great guy.

    1. s.u.n.y. ps student

      Were not talking about his business dealings, were talking about i.c.e. and their clear violation of the law.

      Mexicans welcome in the U.S.A. they are part of our country. Their Should Be No Mexican Border At All.

      Russia wants USA divided, Russia owns mr Trump, Russia wants border wall, Russia Owns Trump.

    2. s.u.n.y. pos major

      Im More interested in reading about the criminal things mr trump has done….

      Mr Trump the greatest criminal in us history, we have an active President committing Live Treason working for Russia clearly against the U.S.A.

      No doubt Trump has committed clear treason against the U.S.A.

      The things Trump has said, his actions clearly prove him guilty of treason and collusion with Russia.

  10. Open Borders

    Mexico is our next door neighbor, he is welcome without any visa, how insane to expect Mexican citizen to need any Visa in USA, where is NAFTA?

    Time to open the USA/Mexico Border

    Mexicans are also Americans, this man is an American How Dare You Demand Visa From Him.

    Mexico is clearly part of America same as USA

    NO WALL OPEN BORDER MEXICO

  11. s.u.n.y. ps major

    People must understand that Trump works for Russia, Russia wants a Wall between USA and Mexico.

    Russia wants USA and Mexcio Divided, Russia Does not want USA and Mexico Together.

    Russia wants Trump to build a wall because Russia wants USA and Mexcio divided, open your eyes see reality.

    TIME TO OPEN USA BORDER WITH MEXICO.

    STOP TRUMPS BERLIN WALL.

  12. rabby

    Although law is important, this is proof of who it is enforced on and why. Look at all of the illegal immigrants who roam about, and wont be deported… but.. if youre a sucessful capitalist that knows how to make money.. watch out.. this is really an example of extortion, political persecution, and govt sponsored shakedowns.

  13. Jane

    I’ll bet you 10-1 be hasn’t paid taxes. And sorry, I agree, the law says he’s illegal. What don’t you get about that? Why should we bend laws for noncitizens? Or should we just let EVERYBODY in to the US?

  14. Juan

    According to the court documents he defrauded the government, cheated his workers out of $800,000.
    Now is barred from public work.
    Google it. Sounds like a thief and a con man.
    I’m generally not in favor of ICE deportations, but for the right people, who will not follow the law, then, yes.
    Deport them.

    1. p.o.s. student

      Once You deport You cant get money back. Keep him here and keep his business going than attach liens ec… and allow the legal process. Legal process and immigration not related.

      We need NAFTA and open border with our neighbors, Mexico. Many Many benefits to open Mexican border for both countries.

      NAFTA a good thing. Russia dont like NAFTA, NAFTA is Good.

      We want NAFTA.. Yes to NAFTA, YES TO OPEN US/MEXICO TRADE…TRAVEL ECT…..

      1. Juan

        The legal process and immigration are related. That’s the way the law is set up. We want to extend residency to good people. We dont need to import criminals, we have enough of our own. Google it, this con man cheated his workers. He defrauded the government (in other words stole from you and me and other tax payers). He was deported twice already. I have great sympathy for the honest workers. I have none for con men and cheats. ICE did the right thing with this guy.

  15. Randy Newman

    “Political Science”

    “Asia’s crowded, Europe is too old,
    Africa’s too hot, Canada too cold
    And South America stole our name,
    Let’s drop the big one,
    There’ll be no one left to blame us.”

  16. JM

    Lalo: Contractors cheated workers out of $1 million in wages for work on public housing, schools, officials say
    Debarment List https://www.labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/publicwork/pdfs/debarred.pdf

    https://patch.com/new-york/midhudsonvalley/new-paltz-contractor-pleads-guilty-wage-cheat-case
    https://www.recordonline.com/news/20160318/contractor-pleads-guilty-to-shorting-workers-800000-in-wages
    “Wage theft is a crime, one that frequently involves companies exploiting low and middle income workers for their own gain,” Schneiderman said in a statement, adding that his office “will continue to aggressively prosecute” wage and hour cases.”

    https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/contractors-cheated-workers-1-million-officials-article-1.2177727

  17. A PuertoRican In NewPaltz

    Deported twice which means he had to sneak back in, drove while drunk, “His mother received amnesty and subsequently citizenship” <<<< this does not make you a citizen, applying for a U visa and having one are NOT the same, cooperating with police does not grant you citizenship, his mother and two brothers are citizens but he isnt?, "acquired the pit property behind New Paltz Village Hall for $1.25 million" but somehow doesnt have the time or money to become a legal citizen, "only became aware of his eligibility for a U visa three years ago" but hes been here since he was 8yrs old lol, you are not protected by a "pending U visa" especially when ICE found none in their system lol.

    The bias and outright lies and omissions from this story is total BS. The age of mooching off of America is over! No longer will you be allowed to come here, commit crimes, and stilll get citizenship! Shame on the reporter who wrote this crap! Glad to see that even in libtard new paltz you cant escape the law haha. Sanctuary cities are a mockery of the Constitution. Shoutout to commenters Thomas, Juan, Randy Newman, and JM for keeping it real with facts!

    Sincerely,
    A concerned American Citizen

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