New local organization created to aid ICE detainees

Ronnie Yastion and Dan Torres (photo by Lauren Thomas)

In New Paltz, people being detained by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sometimes doesn’t go unnoticed. Hundreds of people have written letters in support of Luis Martinez, or shown up to events in his support. Friends of Matthew Rojas rallied to hire an attorney to represent him. Thousands of dollars were raised for Joel Guerrero, the first resident known to have been detained regarding his status as a resident of the United States. 

Now there’s an effort to bring that help to those whose names are not in the public spotlight, with the creation of a fund to support detainees and their families. Organized by Ronnie Yastion and Dan Torres, it’s called “One Pulse-New Paltz.” It will be administered by employees of Family of New Paltz.

“This is a fund for immediate, emergency use by those who are detained or deported, or members of their families,” said Yastion, whose eldest son is a friend and classmate of the son of Luis Martinez, the local contractor and developer who has been locked up in the Orange County jail since January. The sheriff of that county brings in an estimated $8 million a year to his county by accepted ICE detainees. Based on averaged figures, the cost of keeping Martinez behind bars while he awaits resolution of his case has climbed into five digits.


What makes the cases of Martinez, Rojas and Guerrero stand out is that each of these individuals has a support network of friends and family willing to call out the actions of ICE agents, which are seen as extra-judicial because of their lack of due process. By law,  requirements in place for criminal proceedings are required when someone is detained by these officials. All that’s needed to target an individual is an anonymous tip. Illegal aliens — including those provided by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy presently being litigated — are more likely to react by withdrawing from public engagement, fearful to trust strangers or expose themselves to official interest. 

The aim of One Pulse is to provide access to rights which are theoretically available to all persons, whether citizens or not.

“These are three people who knew someone,” said Torres. “No doubt more have been detained. For Joel Guerrero, people raised $16,000 in a week. We are good at rallying, but that’s reactive. This is not.”

What harms one harms all

The need will likely continue. At this point, Yastion said the fund is expecting to help two or three people annually. “A lot of people are willing to help and care,” she said. “We will rise to the occasion.” The name of the fund was selected to reflect the belief that “what harms one harms all.”

“People will be there over the long haul,” Yastion predicted.

Torres sees this fund as a way to reach those in need who haven’t reached “superhero status” by having their stories publicized. He’s of the understanding that people are being taken into custody every day in some nearby communities with a high immigrant population and no regular press coverage. Public attention on the actions of ICE agents has a tendency to reduce that activity, he explained.

Money donated to the One Pulse fund will be kept in a Family of New Paltz account, and made available through application. That organization was selected because many people avail themselves of the services provided through that office on North Chestnut Street in New Paltz. Walking through the door isn’t going to flag someone as being undocumented.

The intent is for the process to be based on need. The application will only require estimates of income. Cash won’t be given to recipients directly. Instead, said Yastion, the intention is to make payments directly where they are needed, such as to landlords, or to provide things like gas cards. Family volunteers are already familiar with rooting out potential fraudsters.

All donations will be tax-deductible. Were the fund run through a governmental entity such as the New Paltz town offices, federal agents may be able to obtain access specifics about the applicants for funds.

Issues of civil rights

Torres hopes this fund will crystallize this national issue in the local consciousness. “These are our neighbors,” he said. “It makes it more personal …. I think anyone locally could rally support.”

Reaction to the Martinez story posted on the New Paltz Times Facebook page has been brisk. Comments echo the debate over immigration with both sides stating their cases.  Some have focused on praising the good character of Martinez, while others have called into question his business practices. The immigration question is certainly wearing a local face in the New Paltz area.

Torres argued that ICE wasn’t operating under “a fair set of rules.” Due to their quasi-police status, ICE agents don’t need warrants signed by judges, and circumvent other rules. Martinez was detained for the first eleven days without any notice to anyone, and his attorney wasn’t advised he’d been placed on a deportation list. His wife received word after the protest in Goshen on March 24 that he was no longer facing imminent deportation. 

Martinez, brought to this country at the age of three, is awaiting word on a U visa for cooperating in a homicide investigation with his brother Jesus as the victim. He has previously been deported twice. 

Torres characterized the federal agency as being run with “racism and xenophobia.” Torres said he often wonders how the current climate will be judged. “We will look back and ask what we were willing to do when people were pulled from their homes by [agents of] a government agency,” he predicted.

Donations can be made by sending checks to Family of New Paltz marked “One Pulse-New Paltz” in the memo line. Yastion hopes to add a direct donation availability to the fund’s Facebook page. Distributions will begin in May.

There are 22 comments

  1. Surfer Girl

    Give the public’s cash to landlords and landladies who are harboring undocumented foreigners as tenants? Give me a break? Who thought up this scam, the landlords and landladies who are Town employees I’d bet.

      1. Alexander Hamilton, 1805

        He who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them in as much as he who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he who’s mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.

  2. JP

    This paper is really starting to become a real liberal rag. Every story now has to do with the liberal agenda. What a shame. These people are here illegally, plain and simple. My family came here, did the paperwork, and did what they were supposed to do by LAW, period. These people you are talking about, crossed the border, came here, established a life without trying to go through the system, and are now being caught by ICE. Yet we are to feel sorry for them now, give me a break! You chose not to go through the proper channels originally, why? And now we should feel bad for you, why? America needs to wake up. People that don’t go through proper channels are criminals!

  3. daniel sanchez

    torres is getting paid. and torres pays the other ones. martinez is a criminal. most criminals hide things.make things look like the opposite. 3 strikes are for a reason.
    you do not get deported twice for a reason. especially in the obama era.

  4. Only Conservative In Town

    I think that some people lose sight of the fact that these people who are here illegally are breaking the law!!

  5. Craig Shackles

    Local police departments across he country began arresting johns along with the prostitutes in the last century. That was a change in policy of just arresting the whores. The Feds should do the same and arrest the property owners with illegal aliens living there. If a town board member has a mother-daughter apartment then the elected official can be handcuffed like a garbage hauler.

  6. Frank M.

    This “normalization” of illegal immigration by the media is very dangerous. If you think this is okay and that it’s no big deal you are gravely mistaken. My friend had a particularly bad asthma attack and checked himself in at the Peekskill ER and sat on an exam room table breathing through a nebulizer for 20 minutes. When he went to check out he got a bill for 5,000.00 dollars! When he enquired about why the charge was so high the doctor explained that illegal immigrants use the ER as primary care and the cost is passed on to us.
    We have no shortage of poor people in this country who are citizens and have paid into the system and who deserve our support. Where are their advocates?

  7. msp

    I think it’s time for Dan Torres to be ousted from the town board. He does nothing for the betterment of New Paltz, his only agenda is promoting his party candidates and helping illegal persons who have not paid into the tax system of this country. If that’s how he wants to spend his time, good for him, but what exactly is he doing for the town of New Paltz residents??

  8. Nino, Pinto and Santa Maria

    According to the public records, Torres was once liaison to both the Town’s Planning Board and the Town’s Board of Assessment Review.
    that has changed. Currently, there is no liaison to the Board of Assessment Review, and elected official Brownstein is now the liaison to the Town’s Planning Board.
    It is a violation of Federal Law for an undocumented immigrant to own land in the United States. Yet, Martinez’s company owns The Pit (2.5 acres on Hasbrouck Street). Thus, the Town gets taxes from Martinez on the parcel, the Village gets taxes collected the parcel, and the County gets to collect taxes on the parcel.
    Talk out of both sides of your mouth much?

  9. Sean Bonniwell

    The xenophobia, racism, and outright hatred of some of you people commenting here is appalling. I’m ashamed to be part of the same species as you. There’s a thing called “empathy.” You should try getting some and stop making it seem like the Hudson Valley is full of hateful, Trumpist morons. Note to anyone not from the HV or from New Paltz: we’re a progressive town, and these idiots don’t represent us.

    1. Bernardo Stevens

      So you disagree with Barack Obama:
      “We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked, and circumventing the line of people who are waiting patiently, diligently, and lawfully to become immigrants in this country.”

      1. Sean Bonniwell

        There is a difference between allowing “people to pour into the United States…” and the ridiculous policies now being used by ICE. Those are very different things. You’re comparing apples to oranges and deciding they’re both bananas. President Obama didn’t say anything about what should happen after the fact, did he? Oh wait, he DID. He said that for those already here, there has to be a clear and achievable path to citizenship. So yes, I agree with Barack Obama. The ICE policies that Mr. Torres and many others in New Paltz have a problem with have nothing to do with border security. They have to do with what happens to undocumented folks once they’re here, and with not treating those people like criminals, or deporting them when they’ve potentially been here for most of their lives.

  10. Edward Jacobson

    How can I get a jacket like that?
    It’s a Town of New Paltz workman’s jacket, paid for with Town taxpayer money. Town residents never approved a budget with funds for the purchase of clothing to outfit elected officials?
    Harry Truman was a haberdasher before he was elected President, but he wore his own wardrobe while in office. Not one stitch of what he wore which was paid for by the U.S. Treasury.
    Why anybody would stand next to an elected official wearing Town owned clothing I’ll never know.

    1. Sean Bonniwell

      Actually, Mr. Torres had that made for himself. He owns it. He purchased the fleece, and had it embroidered at his own expense. The town does not own it. You are genuinely grasping at straws here.

  11. Star Goldstein

    According to the tax records, this elected official owns a $253,000 house which is receiving no STAR exemption? All owner occupied structures are entitled to $30,000 off the assessed value.
    In other words, this elected official is so ignorant of the real property laws of the State, he has not filed STAR exemption forms with the local assessing unit which would allow him to pay less school,town, and county taxes.
    Talk about being altruistic.

  12. Hogan's Heroes

    August 21, 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported Jakiw Palij, who was a Nazi guard at the Trawnik Concentration camp. Dubbed by authorities as the last surviving Nazi in the U.S., a judge ordered his deportation in 2004. No country was willing to accept him until 2018, when Germany accepted him.

  13. Sean Bonniwell

    Pretty sure that at least one (and probably three) of these Anti-Dan-Torres comments are by the same person. He’s a New Paltz business owner who has a well-known grudge against Dan, and has publicly slandered him many times on Facebook. Although I detest this individual (as do a majority of folks in New Paltz – this individual won a moderated contest in a Facebook, earning the title “Most Hated Man In New Paltz”), I won’t name him.

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