Community leaders blast feds following violent ICE arrest in Flatbush

Yeiny Sanz, the sister of Maria de los Angeles Pimental, speaks at a rally on Monday.
Photo by Todd Maisel

Advocates and elected officials are calling for the federal government to release an immigrant who was violently arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers at her place of work on Flatbush Avenue on March 1. 

In a video captured by her coworker, ICE agents can be seen throwing Maria de los Angeles Pimental to the ground and handcuffing her after entering the restaurant she works in without a warrant and pepper-spraying her — a move community leaders compared to the “Gestapo” tactics of Nazi Germany.

“This is not about ‘bad hombres’ this is about Nazism, this is about white supremacy,” said Public Advocate Juumane Williams at a rally outside La Cabaña on Flatbush Avenue, where Pimental works and was arrested. “I don’t want to mince words on the Gestapo police who are walking around on our streets kidnapping our neighbors.”

Community leaders further blasted the agency for entering the restaurant without a judicial warrant and not explaining what was happening to Pimental in Spanish before she was arrested. 

Family members of Pimental, a mother of three from the Dominican Republic who arrived in America last March, say they are devastated by their situation. 

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone else,” said her sister Yeiny Sanz. 

The violent arrest comes in the midst of growing outrage over aggressive ICE tactics in New York, which have recently included agents shooting a 26-year-old man in the face while arresting another man in Gravesend, and walking the streets of the Bronx with a large rifle.  

State Senator Zellnor Myrie, whose district includes La Cabaña, said ICE has been targeting his district — where roughly two-thirds of residents hail from another country — with particular aggression, even stopping passengers of dollar vans to check for identification. 

Myrie stressed the importance of knowing your rights when dealing with immigration agents, who require a judicial warrant to enter private property, not an administrative warrant. 

“They are under no obligation to open the door,” Myrie said. “They can not just barge in they can not come in, you have due process if you are in the United States no matter what your citizenship situation is.” 

ICE spokesperson Rachel Yong Yow claims Pimental — who, she said, has been on the agency’s radar since a Feb. 25 bar fight that ended in her arrest — had overstayed her work visa, which ended Sept. 22. Yong Yow said agents reverted to using pepper spray after Pimental resisted arrest.