Portrait of an Immigrant Detainee as a Young Man

Meet New York bike-scene fixture Pablo Airaldi. He made friends with everyone—except ICE officials.

“He does more for the community than I do, and I was born here!” says Becky Wise, the Bed-Stuy messenger and close friend who collected Pablo’s bike, which she’s now babysitting. “Could I give up my citizenship and get deported somewhere so that he can stay?”

Ziiggie is particularly devastated by Pablo’s absence. “I miss him so much I can’t stand it,” he croaks. He even has a FREE PABLO sticker on his guitar. “What’s happening to Pablo, it makes no sense. It’s so wrong. It’s just so totally illogical and irrational. You can’t send a cat back to a country he don’t know nothing about! He can’t even speak the fucking language! What the fuck are they doing?”

Whatever they are doing, here are Pablo’s two most viable options to handle it: He can fight to get his original sentence amended to less than a year—with all the money raised, his friends have been able to hire New York immigration lawyer Stan Weber, who explains this is Pablo’s best bet. He can also, at any single moment, surrender, sign the paperwork, and return to a country where he hasn’t been in 20 years, doesn’t know anyone, and doesn’t speak the language. He says he has definitely considered that last option “many times.” But hearing about everything that’s going on the outside, he has resigned himself to the possibility that there’s something greater at stake here.

“Honestly, at this point, even with my friends trying as hard as they can, if I get deported, least a lot of people will understand that this is happening all over the place,” he explained during our first phone conversation, back in November. “Not just people out in Arizona or people hopping a fence down from Mexico. It’s happening to them as well—wrongfully so, in many cases. But it’s happening all over, even on your block.”

cdodero@villagevoice.com

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